AL ASAD, Iraq -- After two months of training with the Sweathogs, their flight surgeon was given a new mission upon arriving at Al Asad, Iraq.
Originally stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., Lt. Cmdr. Darian Rice, flight surgeon, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), became the Sweathogs' flight surgeon for their seven-month deployment. In addition, he also became the main surgeon for MWSS-373, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion and their parent command, MWSG-37.
"The base's mission was changing," said Rice. "They needed an available surgeon to fill the position at the 3rd LAAD medical aid center. I was the highest ranking of three doctors that came with the Sweathogs. With my operational background, I was considered a good candidate for the position."
As a flight surgeon, his main role is to focus on the health of the aircrew. Now, being part of MWSG-37, Rice takes on the role of a general medical surgeon for a much larger group.
"The role I am taking over does not require me to be a flight surgeon," said Rice. "I am the officer-in-charge of the aid station, (which is) responsible for administrative work, as well as taking care of the service members. I provide medical advice to the commanding officers of both MWSG-37 and the Security Battalion, with regard to all medical matters affecting their company. I oversee the medical force protection, which includes unit medical readiness, vaccinations, medical record maintenance, personnel assessment, coordinating all medical evacuations and referrals to physicians."
Even as his workload thickens, Rice has to be reached easily since he considers himself as the go-to guy.
"I'm on duty almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Rice. "We have corpsmen to screen things, but if they need me, I have to be somewhere they can reach me. Luckily, my room is right across from the facility, so it becomes easier for my corpsmen to get a hold of me when I'm not there, especially at night."
With all the responsibilities on his plate, Rice plans strategically to stay focused on his mission.
"Although keeping track of all the units keeps me busy sorting things out and handling their medical issues, it makes time go by fast," said Rice. "With the lack of time, it boils down to priorities. I have a long list of things to do, and I create a deadline for them and try to keep them managed."
Developing the skills of those who work alongside him is also important to Rice.
"I provide guidance and training for the corpsmen of the medical department, and I support the professional development for all the corpsmen," said Rice.
Rice spends his free time doing more training, showing his corpsmen how important it is to expand our knowledge and abilites, according to Petty Officer 1st Class Jesus Mateos, corpsman, 3rd LAAD.
"He's been very flexible with us, and although he was attached to the unit at the last minute, we are happy overall with his standards for us," said Mateos.
While working for several units, Rice tries to exert himself with everyone in each unit and get to know the other medical personnel.
"I consider myself as a social guy," said Rice. "It's about accomplishing the mission and taking care of your people. It helps get the job done when you know each other. It helps build teamwork within the unit."
Although Rice tries to make the work environment more comfortable, he reminds himself there are several months ahead before his mission is complete.
"He conducts himself very professionally and does not let any of his units down, even if he is stretched out a lot," said Mateos. "I believe he is doing a great job and will continue to do so the rest of his time out here."
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