PAKTIA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - In Afghanistan, route clearance missions are among the most hazardous jobs because of the risks associated with the detection and removal of improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs, and possible insurgent ambushes to convoys during a stop.
Before any of these missions, they perform their final checks as their convoy lines up not far from the gate of Forward Operating Base Rushmore.
The Spartan engineer soldiers of Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, finalize their preparations and among them is their medic. The ability to respond to the need for medical assistance is critical for her team.
Spc. Patricia Cisneros, of Joliet, Ill., and her team conduct route clearance missions, which frequently take them out onto the roads between forward operating bases.
Although the missions have been routine, she realizes much of the reason they have been uneventful is due to her team’s professionalism and thorough knowledge of their duties, which has gone a long way toward preventing needless casualties.
“The whole process can be pretty tedious but everyone is really good at their job,” said Cisneros. “Luckily, I haven’t had to do my job yet.”
When Cisneros isn’t on mission, she performs her duties as a team leader and with that, she trains her team for their tough missions.
“It’s been interesting - definitely an experience,” said Cisneros. “It is much different from being in garrison; there’s a lot more training involved. It’s a lot more strenuous.”
Her squad leader, U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Fluellen, of Jupiter, Fla., said he knows he’s fortunate to have a soldier like Cisneros on his squad, and sees her courage and enthusiasm, which along with her work ethic, as qualities he would like his other soldiers to emulate.
“She’s not scared of any kind of training we do. She’ll jump right in and is constantly willing to learn,” said Fluellen. “In a company full of men, she is always willing to do anything we do.”
Along with being the platoon medic, she’s also a team leader with three soldiers.
“She’s our platoon medic and does a lot of medical training with us, which is really big in our field,” said Fluellen.
She came into the Army after completing enough of her education to have her well on her way to achieving her goal of becoming a medical doctor. With the need to pay for the rest of her education, she decided to join the Army and, with her educational background, her occupational specialty choice came naturally.
“Becoming a medic just seemed appropriate since I wanted to do something in the medical field,” said Cisneros.
Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training followed, and soon, she found herself where she is now - on her first deployment as a valued member of a close-knit team and getting to see what being soldier in a combat zone is like.
Cisneros credits her mother for giving her the courage to find her path in life as well as her work ethic.
“My biggest role model is my mom because she’s always been a really hard worker,” said Cisneros. “She’s always worked for everything she had. She taught me to be independent and to do whatever makes me happy.”
Training soldiers along with caring for her fellow soldiers are the main reasons she has come to love being an Army medic.
“It’s always really nice to help other people, especially when they don’t know what’s wrong,” said Cisneros. “I especially love teaching.”
Having come to like being a medic as well as working with fellow soldiers has caused her to consider changing what kind of medical professional she wants to be upon completing her education.
“I am considering submitting an application packet to become a physician’s assistant after this deployment,” said Cisneros. “I really enjoy being in the military, and I do want to keep working in the health care field.”