WASHINGTON – After treating sick and injured soldiers in Haiti, Somalia, Colombia and twice in Iraq, an Army medic has applied his skills to the nation's only military maximum-security facility.
Master Sgt. Gregorio Villanuevaochoa, operations noncommissioned officer at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., received the Army's Corrections Professional of the Year award, presented by Maj. Gen. David Quantock, commander of Army Corrections Command, for ensuring that prisoners receive quality health care.
Villanuevaochoa saved the Army about $300,000 in contract health care costs through greater efficiencies without cutting staff. He supervises about 60 soldiers, civilians and health care providers.
He also checks up on hundreds of prisoners -- some serving life sentences and some on death row -- to ensure they are all getting proper care and treatment. In addition, he looks out for the health and well-being of the soldiers on his staff.
While he has seen his share of horrific war wounds, Villanuevaochoa said, the most common types he sees at the prison are shoulder, knee and ankle injuries suffered during recreation, when prisoners are allowed to play basketball, football, lift weights and so on.
The medics interact daily with all the prisoners, he explained, seeing them every morning for checkups and on an as-needed basis. The prisoners also have access to all of the doctors who work at nearby Munson Army Health Center: clinical psychologists, optometrists, psychiatrists, podiatrists, social workers, surgeons, dentists, physical therapists and other specialists.
Although the prisoners are being confined because they've done wrong, Villanuevaochoa said, they're also receiving high-quality medical treatment and individual or group behavioral counseling, improving their lives and reducing their chances of recidivism once released. And while work details are a traditional part of corrections, he added, they also have the opportunity to learn a trade or skills in metal or woodworking, tailoring, graphic arts and other specialties.
Villanuevaochoa said he's proud of the Army's new medics, who receive about twice the training he received years ago during an eight-week course. "Today, our combat medics are better trained and qualified,” he said. They are truly force multipliers to all units deployed."
He added that all of his soldiers take great pride in being professionals and ensuring good order and discipline are maintained at all times in the facility.