By Lt. Eric Green, environmental health officer, Naval Hospital Pensacola
Like so many others, my initial intention as a young man was to join the military to earn money for college and gain work experience. I grew up in a small town in north-central Pennsylvania called Galeton and followed the footsteps of my father by becoming very involved in the area as a firefighter/emergency medical technician. It was there I found my calling in serving others and being part of something greater than myself. In the summer of 2000, my career in Navy Medicine began.
It is my firm belief that the first duty station assigned to a service member prominently impacts and sets the stage for the rest of their career. Mine was about as arduous as they come. I was assigned as a corpsman with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines of the famous 1st Marine Division in the “tropical” location of Twentynine Palms, California. Little did I know at the time that lifetime bonds of comradely would be built that enlightened my outlook on military life.
During an unforgettable deployment in the middle of a typhoon in Okinawa, Japan, I watched the events of 9/11 unfold that forever changed my way of life. Sixteen months later, I was deployed to Iraq for five months and endured 21 days of intense combat that culminated on April 9, 2003, when 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines became the first Marines to enter Baghdad and pulled down the Saddam Hussein statue. In 2005, I was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, to again provide medical support to Marines throughout the very volatile Al Anbar Province.
During my career I received a degree in health services management. While contemplating my future I decided that public health was an area I could make a difference. I was then selected through the Medical Service Corps in Service Procurement Program to become an environmental health officer (EHO).
Throughout my career, I‘ve observed the invaluable role preventive medicine has played. Perhaps the most compelling revelation was during my Iraq deployment in 2003. After withstanding several months of intense combat, I witnessed the toughest of Marines become incapacitated during an outbreak of viral gastroenteritis that spread like a wildfire throughout our camp. A non-battle injury disease immobilized a domineering fighting force, which to me revealed the critical nature of force health protection. As if the dangers of combat are not enough, the myriad of environmental health risk factors our troops face in many countries are countless.
I’m currently assigned as an EHO at Naval Hospital Pensacola. I’m responsible for providing regional environmental health technical oversight to 28 preventive medicine technicians located aboard 12 installations across five states. My job is to prevent or mitigate the spread of disease, and I do this by performing public health inspections to detect the threats before they impact human health. Navy Medicine has provided me with 16 years of extraordinary experiences and limitless opportunities for which I am forever grateful.
I’m Lt. Eric Green. I am Navy Medicine.