(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

Soldiers must be ready and capable to conduct the full range of military operations to defeat all enemies regardless of the threats they pose. But bad sanitation can keep them from the mission.

According to a 2010 public health report from the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, "Influenza and pneumonia killed more American soldiers and sailors during the war [World War I] than did enemy weapons." The pandemic traveled with military personnel from camp to camp and across the Atlantic in 1918, infecting up to 40 percent of soldiers and sailors. In this instance, the enemy came in the form of a communicable disease.


Preventative measures and risk mitigation work to impede history from repeating itself, keeping the Army both ready and resilient. One such preventative measure implemented in Jordan was a week-long Field Sanitation Team (FST) Certification Course last month at Joint Training Center-Jordan.

U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, works through the steps of water purification during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski, with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) "Desert Medics," has been an Army preventative medicine specialist (68S) for more than seven years. He said 68Ss and FSTs help mitigate unnecessary illnesses, allowing soldiers to focus on their mission.

U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, drops a chlorine tablet into water during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

Army regulations require certain units to be equipped with an FST, preferably a combat medic (68W), but any military occupational specialty can fill this position. The 40-hour certification covered areas such as improvised sanitary devices, testing water quality, identifying appropriate food storage areas, placement of restrooms, controlling communicable diseases, proper waste disposal, dealing with toxic industrial materials and combating insect-borne diseases.

U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen (center), with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, tests a water sample for chlorine residuals during a Field Sanitation Team Certification Course.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

The goal of the course was to "enable soldiers to maintain combat readiness and effectiveness by implementing controls to mitigate DNBI [disease non-battle injury]," said Kolenski.

He said environmental testing and figuring out how to mitigate problems before they start can drastically decrease DNBIs. These injuries can include heat stroke, frostbite, trench foot, malnutrition, diarrheal disease -- anything that can take a service member out of the fight. Sometimes reducing risk can be as simple as washing hands or taking out the trash.

"If you reduce the trash, you'll mitigate the flies, which reduces the chance that you'll get a gastrointestinal issue," explained Kolenski, "Because you can't fight if you're in the latrine [restroom]."

A week-long Field Sanitation Team Certification Course, spearheaded by U.S. Army Sgt. Matthew A. Kolenski (far right), with 898th Medical Detachment Preventative Medicine, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) "Desert Medics," was held from Dec. 9 - 13, 2019 at Joint Training Center-Jordan.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Shaiyla Hakeem)

Hazards are identified by sampling air, water, bacteria, pH levels, chlorine residue in water and bugs in the area.

"It was interesting to learn about the different standards for food facilities and rules on the preparation of the food," said U.S. Army Spc. Shelby Vermeulen, with 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment, 96th Troop Command, Washington Army National Guard, who serves as a combat medic at JTC-J.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.