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Reports from the Front: BMET contributes to patient survival

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mindy Bloem
  • 43rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is part four of a four-week series, profiling Pope members who are deployed or have recently returned from deployment

The life of a biomedical equipment repair technician is not spent at the forefront of the action but largely takes place behind the scenes, where technicians work to provide viable medical equipment for patients in need.

No one better represents this way of life than Staff Sgt. Veronica Everest, a Pope BMET, recently returned from a deployment to Bagram, Afghanistan.

The hospital in Bagram was a lot bigger than the clinic at Pope, and Sergeant Everest felt the demands of being in a joint operations combat environment.

"Sometimes it was stressful, like when I was the only one in the shop, and someone had a problem they needed repaired - I 'd say, 'Oh my gosh, give me a second with what I'm working on now, and I'll figure out your issue,'" she said.

How well Sergeant Everest dealt with the stress was crucial, especially considering her responsibilities while deployed.

"At times a situation would bring you to tears because you'd go into a room and see some Army soldier who was missing a leg or someone on life support, and it made you feel a lot of emotions at once," she said.

Sergeant Everest said it was moments like that when the importance of what she did really struck her.

"I would see some patient who was critically wounded or in intensive care who was being kept alive or their needs were being met because of a piece of equipment that I had repaired," she said. "I didn't want to get in the way of the professionals who were doing their job directly caring for the patient, but if I saw someone in a wheelchair in the hallway, I'd always try to make sure I was cordial and asked them how they were doing. It was just a good feeling to know I had affected their care in a positive way."

Her husband, Kurt, also a staff sergeant stationed at Pope, isn't surprised by her work ethic or caring attitude.

"She is dedicated to ensuring her work is completed and done correctly," he said. "I'm proud of how smart she is and her ability to learn. I'm proud of her compassion and caring for others and her willingness to help both people and animals in need. I'm proud of her ability to take on the hard knocks of life and keep on going. She really is an amazing person and that's why I love her."

Sergeant Everest knows the deployed environment can be intense, but also appreciates the camaraderie it engenders between co-workers.

"There were 12 people in our little family - 10 technicians and two officers - and I was the only female technician in our shop. I got teased a lot, but that's all part of the job. If I ever needed a testosterone break, I would just go to the OR (Operating Room) for a little bit."

Sergeant Everest said she doesn't mind the good natured ribbing and even admits that trouble sometimes finds her, but it is those moments that are the most memorable.
She recalled one incident involving an Expeditionary Deployable Oxygen Concentration System. She explained the machines are big, loud pieces of equipment that are hard to repair and maintain.

During one training session, one of the parts was taken out and new belts were put on. She had to re-grease it and put it back together. She said one of her co-workers turned on another part to start filling up the four little oxygen tanks inside of it.

"It was on for two seconds, not even, and it just started shooting fire," she said. "And the first thing in my mind after I flew across the ground was 'ohmygosh, I blew it up,' which wasn't true but that's what I thought. To my knowledge, one had never blown up before. We found out later one of the tank tops had ruptured and shot up, sparking the fire. I just got an e-mail about it. It is at the NASA White Sands Test Facility. They're running all these tests on it, and apparently NASA wants our statements."

Sergeant Everest enjoys those types of moments as it reminds her of why she enlisted in the first place. She joined the military right out of high school - partly as an alternative to college and partly for her dad who wanted her to see the world. She feels gratitude for her experiences every time she returns to her hometown of West Virginia and sees how far she's come.

"It been cool getting to try and see new things," she said. "It's given me opportunities I would never trade and when I go home, people tell me, 'you've done so much and have seen so many cool things.' And now, I can really appreciate that.

"When I was leaving Bagram last summer, I would see a lot of servicemembers coming in for treatment. I would think, 'This piece of equipment has my initials on it. This is why I don't take shortcuts. This is why my job is so important."