How does U.S. military leadership determine which missions should be carried out? Who decides what and how much supplies are necessary? Who helps evaluate if a mission is successful or not? These questions and an endless number of others can be answered by operations research analysts. Capt. Jennifer Buck, a research scientist from the Studies and Analysis Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, joined the Resolute Sentinel 21 (RS-21) team to collect various types of data.
“I look at details about patients, but I also evaluate the big picture, which includes mission planning, partnerships and relationships built, and if the on-site training is different from what the healthcare providers would normally receive at their home bases,” said Buck.
The material she collects evaluates if and how the exercise accomplished its objectives, reports return on investment, and captures observations, insights or issues, as well as lessons learned to improve future iterations of this mission. Essentially, she makes sure that the U.S. military is making a positive impact by asking, “Did we do a good job and how can we do better?”
Many of the service members participating in RS-21 had never even heard of an operations research analyst, let alone worked with one before. U.S. Army Sgt. First Class William Banuelos, the senior healthcare non-commissioned officer in charge, with the 228th Combat Support Hospital of Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, expressed gratitude for Buck’s efforts.
“Captain Buck has been a valuable asset to our mission,” said Banuelos. “Her ability to provide accurate data has streamlined our ability to report to higher command.”
“This information assisted in the nightly preparation of medication and documentation that expedited our pharmacy processing time,” he added. “I believe that our ability to consistently increase efficiency is directly related to the data collected from days prior.”
The RS-21 mission not only provides joint training and increased readiness of U.S. and partner nation military personnel, but it also helps strengthen relationships through humanitarian assistance activities.
“It has been a great experience learning about Guatemalan culture and how we can best provide care to a community in need,” Buck explained. “The people here are so nice and generous and genuinely appreciate the care our team has provided them.”
She concluded, “What I love about my job is that I get to use my critical thinking skills to help make people’s lives easier and better.”