MILO, Maine — In small communities, there are few people willing to get the training necessary to serve their local ambulance service as emergency medical technicians, especially when they have jobs elsewhere.
When three of the EMTs on a roster are called to active duty with the military, it can leave a void that is difficult to fill.
That’s the case for the Three Rivers Ambulance Service, but no one is grumbling about pulling extra duty when they know their counterparts are protecting them, according to ambulance service chief Mike Larson.
EMT intermediate paramedics Kendall Noke, 21, and David “DJ” Olmstead, 20, who are with the Brewer-based Bravo Company of the 3rd Battalion, 172nd Infantry Unit of the Maine Army National Guard, will leave early this month for Afghanistan. In February, Duane Applebee, 36, who has been reactivated by the Army, also will leave for Afghanistan.
“It’s going to be hard trying to fill the shifts because they put in a lot of hours each week,” Larson said of the three men this week.
The soldiers are among 14 licensed intermediate paramedics on staff at the privately owned department which answers calls in Milo, Brownville, Medford, LaGrange, Orneville and the Unorganized Territory in the region.
The three men typically work 60-plus hours a week for the department, according to Larson. The rest of the crew, including Larson, recognizes that they’ll have to work unusual shifts while the men are away, which will be difficult if they hold other jobs.
Larson’s daytime job is at the Mountain View Youth Development Center, and when he’s not working for the Three Rivers Ambulance during his off-hours, he can be found working for Mayo Regional Hospital’s ambulance service and for the Milo and Brownville police departments.
“I fill in as much as I can” for those unable to work their shifts, he said.
Todd Lyford, chairman of the Three Rivers Ambulance Service board of directors, said this week that it’s difficult for a small ambulance service to get people to commit time to work to answer emergency calls. Then to lose three to active duty means even more pressure, according to Lyford.
“It always affects the ability for us to cover shifts, and it puts a load onto the others who work here,” he said.
Some of the EMTs and drivers put in 2,500 hours a year for the ambulance service, Lyford said.
In addition to the three servicemen, two other EMTs are on leave from their ambulance positions because of conflicts with their regular jobs, Lyford said.
While he feels it’s his duty to serve his country, Noke, 21, will miss his friends at the ambulance garage, he said. Noke, like Olmstead, is an Army-trained medic. Noke said he volunteered for Three Rivers because he knows everybody in the community and wanted to help.
“It’s not for the outstanding paycheck I receive,” Noke said jokingly.
Olmstead, 20, said he took the job because he likes working with people. “It’s a great place to work,” he said.
Their dedication to their community and to their country is commendable, and they will sorely be missed, Lyford said.