SAVANNAH, GA --
“I never thought I would join the military, like ever,” said Iowa Air National Guard member Staff Sgt. Manuel Zertuche, who is training with his unit at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah, Georgia.
One of the reasons Zertuche said he joined the Air National Guard was for the education benefits, but since joining he has found there is more to it than just monetary benefits. He works as an Aerospace Medical Technician with the 185th’s Med Group where he has been serving for almost 6 years.
Since joining the Air Guard, the University of Iowa student said he has had the opportunity to travel to Puerto Rico with the Med Group where he worked in a hospital trauma unit. During the state’s recent response to COVID-19, he volunteered to help at state test centers where he administered COVID tests.
During his tenure with the unit, the Sioux City native has also traveled to Guam where he acted as the medic-on-site. Zertuche explained that he also had the opportunity to attend patient movement training in Alaska.
All Zertuche’s training and experiences have occurred while on his initial enlistment. He said the job has exposed him to opportunities that he would not otherwise have had.
“Joining the guard as a medic gave me the ins-and-outs of working in a hospital,” explained Zertuche.
As part of the job description, Zertuche and the rest of the members of the 185th Med Group are required to undergo recurring annual training as part of medical certifications.
At the 185th, Zertuche is responsible for patient safety as well as “code blue” training, where he trains members of the med group to respond to medical emergencies.
During their annual training, Zertuche is not just a student, but he is also training members of the Med Group on code blue scenarios while in Savannah.
“If somebody went down, they don’t have a pulse, and things like that,” explained Zertuche, “We start CPR and call 911.”
The group of 185th clinicians received instruction on defibrillator use and chest compression training, among other code blue subjects while at the CRTC. Zertuche emphasized that code blue training is critical and that it needs to be refreshed on a quarterly basis.
While attending his final year at the University of Iowa, where he plans to graduate with a geochemistry major Zertuche said he will also be applying to medical schools while he finishes his undergraduate degree.
“Hopefully I get in first try,” said Zertuche. “That would be amazing! If not, I’ll keep applying until they accept me somewhere.”
With his interest in optometry, Zertuche said he is interested in pursuing a doctorate in ophthalmology. After graduating from college Zertuche also plans to pursue becoming a commissioned officer in the Air Guard.
“I just want to be able to take care of patients and build a rapport with families and be able to help out a community,” he explained.
Zertuche said he grew up with a supporting family and especially credits his father as an important mentor and his main motivator.
“My dad has always pushed me to be the best that I can be,” said Zertuche, “He always told me ‘You make money with your mind instead of only hard work with your muscles, because your muscles can give out, but you can have your mind for a long time.’”
On joining the Air Guard, Zertuche said he made the right decision and that it was probably the best decision of his life.
“It gave me experience, it helped pay for things,” said Zertuche. “It makes me travel and meet new people. I have met people all over the country. It’s amazing!”