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‘Mom’ medic ensures construction site safety during exercise in Central America

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)
She gives 30 minute time-outs, ensures proper food and water intake, gives first-aid for cuts, scrapes and burns, and many people refer to her as "mom."

Senior Airman Janna Harina, an emergency medical technician deployed from the 4th Medical Operations Squadron, Seymour-Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, is in Belize providing medical care to engineers during the U.S. Southern Command-sponsored New Horizons exercise.

She is the site medic at the Sadie Vernon Technical High School addition construction site project and is part of a the New Horizons task force that is building four different school additions in Belize City, Hattieville and one hospital addition in Belmopan, Belize.

Safety is her main priority.

For 12-14 hours per day, she watches Airmen, Marines and Soldiers to make sure they are wearing proper individual protective equipment and also keeps an eye out for signs and symptoms of heat related injuries such as drenched clothing, blank stares and dilated pupils.

She's also developed a couple tricks to ensure that her medical advice is taken seriously such as making Gatorade with last names written on the bottle, allowing her to track each person's individual fluid intake.

"I also make Gatorade with salt," said the San Diego, California native who was born in the Philippines. "They hate it, but it keeps them from passing out."

When she's not doing traditional medic work, Harina doubles as a construction worker.

She has helped site plumber's construct wet walls, assisted electricians with putting in a sink outlet and has helped structural engineer's parge exterior and interior walls.

Harina, who has been in the military for three years, says that construction work is much different than working at a hospital.

"I appreciate now what I do in my clinic," she said. "12 hours at a clinic is much different than working 12-14 hours of manual labor out in the elements."

She says that the best part of the New Horizons mission is the camaraderie and working side by side with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and members of the Belize Defence Force.

"We are all bonding at our construction site," Harina said. "Nobody gets left behind ... we help each other and do not cleanup until everyone is done."

Her most important life lesson here in Belize has come from members of the Belize Defence Force light engineer company.

"They taught me that you don't have to take work so seriously," the Senior Airman said. "You can have fun and still have good quality work."

Harina followed her three brothers (all corpsman in the Navy) into the military.

Prior to joining, she went to college for a year and majored in pre-med but it became too expensive to maintain.

Since joining the military she's earned an associate's degree and now continues to attend college to complete her prerequisites so that she can get considered for the Air Force's Physician's Assistant program.

Eventually, she'd like to follow through on her dream of becoming a medical doctor because she enjoys helping people.

"I like taking care of people ... my nieces, nephews and everyone," she said.

In her free time Harina likes to do arts and crafts, hike, cross-stitch, play her keyboard, attend church and participate in Bible study. She also likes to spend time with her boyfriend, Airman 1st Class Taylor Matthews, an aerospace ground equipment technician.

She will return from her deployment in late-June.