"My passion is medicine. My love is helping people at tough times. When someone needs assistance, you can just see it in their eyes,” said SGT Jacinta Mello, who recently was called to help fellow California Army National Guardsmen in a similar-yet-different role: She’s a Combat Lifesaver instructor, who travels across the state teaching deploying Soldiers basic life-saving techniques.
“When you have a skill, you just have to teach it to help others,” Mello explained. “It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t apply what you know, and it’s even better if others learn from it.”
Her San Mateo, Calif., home station, Company C, 297th Area Support Medical Company, sends mobile training teams (MTTs) out to assist units deploying overseas.
Four medics were in Fairfield recently instructing 49th Military Police Brigade Soldiers on CLS basics. From her experience, CLS is a difficult session, Mello said.
“It’s just staying with the basics of how to save a life,” she added. “There’s so much more to learn. But CLS is very important. You’re not scaring people, you’re kissing them with reality.”
Mello, a Berkeley, Calif., resident, taught CLS to Guardsmen and active duty Soldiers since November 2007. Prior to that, she served as a respiratory practitioner and paramedic for Allied Ambulances in the San Francisco Bay area. Her role takes her into serious situations. She deals with extreme trauma cases and onto playing peacemaker with those with psychological disorders, she said.
It all started as a civilian EMT. Mello attended the San Francisco-based Skyline Community College in 1986. Her experience excelled during the famous 1989 San Francisco earthquake, which was then followed by the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. Between duties, Mello was a corpsman with the Navy Reserves.
After an inactive period, Mello joined the California Army National Guard to continue service. Since serving on active duty for special work in 2007, she has helped teach CLS to about 5,000 Soldiers.
“And we have about 3,500 just next month,” she added.
What’s ironic about her story is as often as she battles to help save lives, Mello has recovered in a battle of her own. She’s a cancer survivor.
At 49 years young, Mello says she’ll soon be back to her normal physical state.
“It’s just a matter of time. It was hard initially, but I’m getting there,” Mello said.
There’s still one obstacle to face. Mello will deploy this summer with the Camp Roberts-based Task Force Warrior to Afghanistan, a tour she “desperately needs” to accomplish another goal.
“I want to validate myself as a combat medic,” said the life-saver. “I’ve been waiting for this. I have wanted to go. If I can get out there and continue helping people, I’ll do it to the best I can.”
Story by Spc. Eddie Siguenza
Photo by Spc. David Choi
California National Guard