Medic earns Bronze Star, Army Achievement Medal

  • Published
  • By David Edwards
  • Academy Spirit staff writer
When Capt. Tess Marcial arrived in Paktia province, Afghanistan, as part of a medical embedded training team, her responsibilities weren't immediately clear.

She found out soon enough, and she ended up fulfilling them so well that her six-month deployment was crowned with two awards, a Bronze Star and an Army Achievement Medal.

Earning two commendations in that short a time is a noteworthy achievement, but they come as no surprise to Captain Marcial's superior officer.

"What impresses me the most is I'm not surprised," said Col. Leslie Ness, the administrator for the 10th MDG. "Every (Medical Service Corps Airman) we send out the door has done a great job. It does take a special breed to go in there, understand their culture and figure out how to try to help."

Captain Marcial was part of the medical training team at Forward Operating Base Lightning. Team members were tasked with helping Afghan care providers around Paktia province, in the east-central part of the country.

At the Paktia Regional Military Hospital in Gardez, Captain Marcial was instrumental in the development of the Women's and Children's Clinic, which provides medication, immunizations and other services to the Afghan National Security Forces and their families.

"We offer suggestions and provide materials, but the patients need to trust and gain confidence in the medical professionals available to them," Captain Marcial said in a December 2009 interview. "My hope for this program is that families become aware of this benefit as an entitlement and get the feeling there is an extended military family here to meet their medical needs."

At the suggestion of a colleague, she also created a competition for Afghan medics that conferred on them the dual benefit of personal satisfaction and much-needed training. The turnout of 52 medics was amazing, and the participants responded well to the test of their skills.

"She gave them their motivation," Colonel Ness said.

Captain Marcial said her job as an administrator dealt mostly with coordination and attempts to improve processes. For example, she worked to show hospital personnel how best to use and distribute medical supplies. She also devised strategies to overcome the mentality that the services were open only to members of the Afghan National Army. In a country with next to no widespread advertising and broadcasting, her outreach efforts started with simple giveaways and grew based on word of mouth.

"You have to accept that their facility is never going to look like your facility," Captain Marcial said. "For me, it's more about, 'Can they sustain after I leave? Have I put the right thoughts in their minds?'"

In the citation for Captain Marcial's Bronze Star, she is commended for directing "numerous events that impacted the United States and Afghanistan's National Medical Care Policy objectives and standards of medical care." The citation further states that "she was vital to ensuring mass casualty readiness."

Her own skills were tested after a suicide bombing in Gardez, and the Army Achievement Medal attests to her response. She coordinated three separate aeromedical evacuations and took charge of FOB Lightning's troop medical clinic so medical teams could respond at Paktia Regional Hospital. The citation states that her "unselfish actions were integral to saving numerous lives."

Captain Marcial is no stranger to awards. While stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, she was named the Pacific Air Force's outstanding health plan manager of the year for 2004. Two years later, she was one of four Airmen selected for an Air Force scholarship that pays for completion of a graduate degree at a civilian institution. In addition, she received the Eugenie D. Sontag Scholarship from the University of Colorado at Denver, and she earned a master's degree in health administration in May 2008.

She also revived Retiree Appreciation Day at Hickam AFB. Before her intervention, the event had not been held in the Pacific Region for 15 years. She was on leave when the Academy held its Retiree Appreciation Day last week, but she hasn't ruled out taking part next year.

Captain Marcial was selected for promotion to major in September 2009. She said she expects to pin on the new rank in October.