FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS – Pfc. Yardy Collins holds the distinction of being the first international student from Liberia to graduate from the preventive medicine specialist program at the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston October 20.
Collins, from Monrovia, joined the Liberian army because of his desire to save lives, and provide care and treatment to his country and the army. His career goal is to further himself in the medical field, and the preventive medicine course has brought him a step closer.
“I chose to become a preventive medicine specialist because I want to provide good sanitation services to my country,” explained Collins. “My career goal is to be a professional nurse and a public health specialist in line with this unique course.”
According to Mr. Oscar Ramos, director of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center & School (AMEDDC&S) International Programs Division, which provides direct support to the international military students attending [joint] training under the auspices of the Department of State/ Department of Defense Security Cooperation Education and Training Program, Collins is one of a selected few Liberian enlisted soldiers to attend METC- hosted programs and the only one to have completed the preventive medicine specialist course from his country and U.S. Africa Command.
“The Armed Forces of Liberia enlisted medical personnel train alongside their U.S. counterparts in support of the U.S. Army Surgeon General’s global mission to promote standardization and interoperability throughout the military spectrum, while enhancing partner nations’ medical capabilities,” said Ramos.
In addition to the formal training, Collins also participated in several DOD Field Study Program trips throughout the state of Texas exposing him to U.S. Culture, government institutions and human rights, stated Ramos.
Lt. Col. Paul Lang, Army Service Lead for the preventive medicine specialist program, knows first-hand the hardships Liberia faces with regard to adequate sanitation.
“Because of my time working at U.S. Army Africa and, specifically, taking part in the Ebola response in Liberia, I have a deep admiration and respect for the people of Liberia and its army,” said Lang.
“When I learned we would have a Liberian student in the class I was very excited. Pfc. Collins embodies the hard work and spirit of the Liberian people,” Lang continued. “He is a natural leader whose quiet confidence and high standards were infectious to the rest of his peers and improved the experience for others in the class. I know that he will take the knowledge and skills he learned here back to Liberia and make an immediate impact.”
Collins admitted having to overcome some challenges in the course, such as his fear of speaking in front of an audience, learning how to use the computer for on-line research, and anxiety about different teaching methods. However, he was not without support.
“My instructors and the staff were great and helped me overcome my limitations,” Collins said. “When I needed help, they were there for me.”