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Preventive Medicine techs foil the foe

The Food Safety Managers Course can positively impact mission readiness. By inspecting food and food service facilities, and if needed, conducting bacteriological analysis of food, water, and ice samples keeps those food and water borne contaminants away. (U.S. Army photo) The Food Safety Managers Course can positively impact mission readiness. By inspecting food and food service facilities, and if needed, conducting bacteriological analysis of food, water, and ice samples keeps food and water borne contaminants away. (U.S. Army photo)

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There’s an unseen enemy out there potentially threatening every command.

The adversary can impact Sailors and Marines in a very discomforting – even dangerous – manner, in the most innocuous conditions and circumstances.

Foiling that foe is the daily norm for Naval Hospital Bremerton’s (NHB) Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine team as they continually ensure Navy and Marine Corps mission readiness is not impacted by any hidden health risk.

“What we do is really very important. We prevent food and water borne contamination and keep our service members, and dependents, retirees and civilian workers, from becoming ill,” said Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Masson Manson, Environmental Health preventive medicine technician.

One method preventive medicine technicians use to help prevent any food or water related illness – from bacteriological, viral, and biological – is with the Navy Medicine’s Food Safety Managers Course.

The course provides specialized education, training, and support to every Navy and Marine Corps location that offers food and water service, from ashore to afloat, including child development centers, food kitchens and mobile canteens. The course is available to all eligible active duty, and civilian food service workers and base employees who will be handling or storing food for patrons and/or customers at childcare facilities.

The training and guidance covers strict guidelines of health, hygiene and sanitation concerning food service, handling and identification of food, facility management, utensils and equipment use and care, and contamination protection and prevention.

“The course is a tool we use to help train all food service workers in the various responsibilities of safe food preparation handling, serving, and storage. We keep them informed with the latest training to further their knowledge of food service, prep, storage, and proper personal hygiene. All this benefits those patrons of the food establishments on military bases ensuring they are eating quality food prepared in the most professional way,” explained Manson, noting that there’s a constant need to identify and counter any possible dangers from food and water sources.

“We go over everything in the course. There is importance in proper food stowage and labeling, hand washing, and sanitizing solution availability. We want everyone to realize that what they do is vital. Sanitation is part of safety and security,” Manson added.

There is storied history of Navy Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine combating a foul and filthy foe.

Navy Medicine has long fought against parasitic diseases such as cholera – an infectious and often fatal illness acquired from infected water supplies – with perhaps none more notable than Navy Capt. Robert Phillips of Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2. Phillips and his team worked tirelessly to combat cholera epidemics in India, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines, including a particularly deadly outbreak in then-South Vietnam in 1964, becoming the first foreign medical unit to arrive in Saigon during the epidemic. They treated and saved more than several thousand cases working with host nation medical personnel.

Forty-one years later, the Navy worked with the Republic of Indonesia in 2005 to provide vital disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to tsunami victims on devastated Banda Aceh province to help handle waterborne diseases as cholera, malaria, and others.

In 2018, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower’s drinking water tested positive for E coli – usually picked up by someone eating contaminated food – during a routine water test. The nuclear aircraft carrier’s entire potable water sources were shut down.

“The worst case scenario, and one we trained against, is if an entire command gets sick due to eating somewhere on base. That could definitely impact mission readiness if a ship’s crew is suffering an illness from food or water borne contaminant. Our job is making sure that doesn’t happen,” said Manson.

The list of duty responsibilities is long for Preventive medicine technicians. Along with instructing medical and nonmedical personnel in preventive medicine, industrial hygiene, environmental health, and occupational health matters such as the Food Service Manager course, they also conduct ongoing disease and environmental surveillance and investigation disease outbreaks.

If there’s water, there’s a need for a preventive medicine technician, as they inspect potable water systems, solid waste and waste water disposal sites and systems, vehicles, and transport containers. Even swimming pools.

They are especially proficient in all aspects of field sanitation concerning water and food service sanitation, waste disposal, and disease vector control.

“That’s what we do, and the more we people we train, the better it is for all commands and their people. The food service workers really provide more eyes than our own to prevent illness and contamination. Every galley, food trunk, and canteen in the area helps build morale for all those who use it. We’re here to help keep them all open and operating,” said Manson.

The enemy remains out there.

Unseen.

NHB’s Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine team knows that foiling that foe helps maintain mission readiness, and the Food Service Manager Course helps them – and others – along the way.

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