Navy Medicine Support Command ‘Bug Man’ Returns from Afghanistan
By MC1(SW) Arthur N. De La Cruz, Navy Medicine Support Command Public Affairs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Navy Medicine Support Command’s (NMSC) resident ‘Bug Man’ and Operations Directorate Deputy Chief of Staff, Cmdr. Steven E. Rankin, MSC, returned from an individual augmentee (IA) tour to Afghanistan May 21.
Rankin was stationed at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, and assigned to the Cooperative Medical Assistance (CMA) unit attached to the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) Surgeon’s Command 30th Medical Command in support of a specialized and unique mission.
“I wore three hats while in Afghanistan,” said the Navy entomologist. “I was the Theater Entomologist, the CMA Entomologist and the CMA officer in charge (OIC).”
As Theater Entomologist for the USFOR-A Surgeon's Office, he was responsible for theater-wide oversight of all U.S. military vector and pest control programs in support of force health protection.
“I provided theater guidance and direction where needed to the four regional entomologists and the pest control contractors,” explained Rankin. “I reviewed regional reports and was an entomologist consultant, and directly supported vector and pest control programs when, and where, it was needed.”
As the CMA Entomologist, Rankin managed and supported entomology programs for Civil Affairs Stability Operations in three major areas: public health, veterinarian and with agricultural crop pests.
Lastly, “I took over as the CMA OIC after my predecessor redeployed,” said Rankin. “The CMA was an enabling unit. We provided educational tools and resources that enabled both Coalition forces and local nationals to provide sustainable educational programs and resources to enhance and improve health sector development both in capacity and capability. We were geared toward programs that would still be viable after we left. We put in place small steps that cumulatively helped climb a steep mountain of medical and agricultural gaps or deficiencies.”
But, according to Rankin, the greatest challenges were spearheading a major evolution in medical civil military operations and getting that change into motion before it was signed off as doctrine.
“We were the tactical piece working for the strategic headquarters,” said Rankin. “Most of what we did was evolving and developing on the scene, more of a Marine Corps model than Army or Air Force. As units saw the effectiveness and logic behind the changes we implemented, getting the civil affairs units, provincial reconstruction teams, agribusiness development teams and other security forces units to adopt the new concepts, and extra efforts to make the programs truly sustainable were much easier to achieve.”
But Rankin said the constant turn-over of units often made this more difficult as it meant constant re-education.
Though only in-theater for six months and three weeks, Rankin adopted a profound perspective.
“Nothing beats the reality of being on the ground, no matter how much you prepare and study,” he said. “I expected greater animosity from the Afghan people, but found that most were just grateful we were there to help.”