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Penn College Staff Member Prepares for Deployment to Iraq

The director of Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Paramedic Program, a Navy Reservist, was called to active duty recently and is preparing for deployment to Iraq.

Erich J. Frank, 39, of Williamsport, joined the Navy Reserves in October 2001. He serves as a hospital corpsman assigned to a Fleet Marine Force. Although he is a member of the Navy Reserve, Frank, as an FMF corpsman, will provide medical support for Marines.

“After 9/11, I realized I wanted to put my civilian skills and knowledge to use in defense of my country and what America represents,” Frank said.

Frank has been on the West Coast for pre-deployment training and just completed extensive desert and mission-specific training. His unit will be deployed to Iraq, but he said the date is uncertain.

He returned to Williamsport on Aug. 7 for Penn College’s Summer Commencement ceremonies, during which he was called to the podium for recognition.

“Erich has an important role at Penn College, and his contributions will be missed by students, faculty and staff while he is away,” said College President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour. “He will be in our thoughts as he serves his country, and we look forward to his safe return next year.”

In addition to administering emergency medicine in the event that a Marine is wounded in action, corpsmen are also responsible for preventive-medicine measures, medical education and training, and primary-care services to Marines in the field.

“Due to the type of unit that I am assigned to, I will spend a great deal of time with Marines on convoy supply missions and supporting remote landing zones for aircraft operations,” Frank said.

Frank expects to serve for seven to 12 months, but he said that is subject to change. He said his family, which includes his wife, Glenda, and two sons ages 12 and 10, has been supportive and understanding. “Although I know there will be difficult times, we’re confident that everything will be fine,” Frank said. “We have been able to keep in touch on a daily basis so far, which has helped. I couldn’t do this without their support, and often, I believe, the sacrifices that the family makes are overlooked.”

Fortunately, Frank said, “There is a wonderful support system at home for Glenda, Kyle and Zach, with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers there to help in any way.”

In his own transition from civilian to military life, Frank said the task at hand helps him to keep a positive perspective.

“Certain aspects can be very frustrating, but others are just as rewarding, so there is a balance,” he said. “Given the task at hand, one cannot expect it to be easy. If it were, then we probably wouldn’t be adequately prepared for what we are about to do. I will tell you this: Marines are appreciative and respectful of their corpsmen, and knowing that you’re an integral part of a team like the USMC makes it all worthwhile. I cannot think of a better group of people to serve with.”

Frank was given several months’ notice about impending mobilization and was kept apprised of new developments. He was not surprised to be called to active duty.

“When I enlisted in the Reserves, I knew there was a very good chance that I would eventually be called up, especially since there has been a shortage of corpsmen, so there was no shock, surprise or dismay on my part when the time came,” Frank said. “The same is true for the vast majority of the Marines I serve with, as well.”

While keeping in touch with his Penn College co-workers has been difficult because he has limited access to e-mail, Frank said “the outpouring of well-wishes and encouragement before I left was amazing.”

Bambi A. Hawkins, the Paramedic Program’s learning lab coordinator, is serving as interim director during Frank’s absence. She is overseeing the program’s upcoming move to the renovated Klump Academic Center, where Paramedic Technology students will practice with a crash car, ambulance and emergency-room booths.

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