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News | Sept. 28, 2020

Fort Drum Medical Activity Soldiers train as Sexual Assault Forensic Assistants

By Warren W. Wright Jr.

Three healthcare Soldiers from the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity (MEDDAC), Fort Drum, New York, recently received training as Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examiner (SAMFE) assists.  Under the new pilot program, the volunteer Soldiers are now ready to provide valuable support to primary SAMFE providers with medical exam assistance, collecting forensic evidence and supporting victims during sexual assault forensic exams.
Staff Sgt. Dennis Manuel, primary care noncommissioned officer; Spc. Marissa Kirian, NCO in charge of OB/GYN; and Spc. Kelly Pham, laboratory medical specialist, completed the SAMFE assist course under the training of Rachel Countryman, the Fort Drum MEDDAC Sexual Assault Medical Management Office program manager.
“We assist the SAMFE person with collecting evidence, taking pictures, etc. to make sure everything is right, so when you go to court and present the evidence, you’re helping the victim,” said Pham.  “It’s a great way to give back to the community.  I think my skills, my empathy and my maturity is going to add a lot to the table.”
The new SAMFE assist Soldiers will now be on-call on a rotational basis, ready to respond to an incident on Fort Drum or to any of the local hospital where a victim might receive care.
“It’s a timely process,” said Kirian, a Cascom, Ohio native.  “You want to collect (the evidence) quick, but you also don’t want to rush the patient.”
Furthermore, Manuel, Kirian and Pham will be prepared to provide sexual assault forensic support overseas should they be called upon to deploy.
“The access to medical care and getting a SAFE kit downrange is much harder than when they are not deployed,” Countryman said.  “Any provider or SAMFE would be happy to have one of these assist there to help them during the SAFE.”
While they are called upon to assist the primary SAMFE, the number one priority of the SAMFE assist is the health and welfare of the victim. 
“I would like to emphasize that the most important aspect of the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam is the thorough medical exam and treatment,” Countryman said.  “The collection of forensic evidence is just an added bonus.”
According to Countryman, responding to an incident will take precedence over the SAMFE assists' regular duties should a victim request an exam during the duty day, making the support of supervisors and senior leaders essential to the program.
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