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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – During normal combat patrol missions, an Army medic accompanies an Army unit. But the provincial reconstruction team for Afghanistan’s Kandahar province is not a normal unit.
Composed of soldiers, sailors and civilians from the State and Agriculture departments, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other entities, the team is a joint organization.
When Afghans in Kandahar see the team, it is likely that Navy corpsman Chief Petty Officer Jay Thrailkill is nearby.
“Corpsmen are like jumper cables,” Thrailkill said. “We aren’t needed until the battery goes, but no matter what, we’re always ready.”
A prior X-ray technician, Thrailkill is the provincial reconstruction team’s senior enlisted corpsman and has completed more than half of all mounted combat missions since October. He must be familiar with Army infantry tactics and procedures to be effective.
“Chief makes my job easier by going above and beyond what is expected of him,” said Navy Lt. j.g. Jessica Friddle, the team’s senior medical officer. “His background in preventive medicine helps to ensure that the safety of our unit is always a priority.”
Friddle, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., teaches combat lifesaver refresher classes to ensure that members are fully prepared if medical personnel are not immediately available in an emergency.
The team’s Army medic, Spc. Jerome Jaquis, is serving as a member of the team’s security force and covers the missions that Thrailkill isn’t on. And with most of the team certified in combat lifesaving, ample assistance is available if it’s needed.
Thrailkill said his best times in Afghanistan are when he is out on mission.
“My primary role is to be ready,” he said. “Most of my work is done from the vehicle, unless the mission requires that we have a long walk.”
Various duties keep Thrailkill busy as he medically prepares the vehicles for anything that could go wrong. He checks his equipment before each mission, and inventories each week.
This is not the first time Thrailkill has worked in the interservice realm, with seven deployments under his belt. He has served in Japan, Kuwait and Williamsburg, Va., as well as on the USS Kittyhawk, USS Kearsarge and USS Theodore Roosevelt. His service brings more than 22 years of medical experience working in the joint environment to the Kandahar team.
When he’s not out on missions, Thrailkill volunteers at the post exchange. He also is completing the few remaining courses for his bachelor’s degree in health care management.