AGANA HEIGHTS, Guam (NNS) -- “Saving lives is an amazing feeling,” said U.S. Naval Base Guam (NBG) Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Rommel Magan. “When I was younger, I always looked up to firefighters. Those are the guys who rush in to burning buildings to save people. That’s what I wanted to do, save lives.”
Magan is living proof that dreams can come true. Not only has he fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming a firefighter in 2011, he is now the first local Guam firefighter to obtain the National Registry-EMT-Paramedic certification.
National Registry-EMT-Paramedic is the highest medical qualification an emergency responder can attain. Paramedics can administer medicine, tend to trauma victims and assist patients with respiratory complications. Magan completed his certification in record time and under exceptional circumstances.
“I fast-tracked the fast-track,” explained Magan. “I finished number one in my class, and I was one of the fastest students to ever complete the paramedic course in Texas A&M history.”
Texas A&M University offers the EMS (Emergency Medical Service) Paramedic course, an accelerated program approximately nine monthslong. The course required 153 hours of prerequisite online courses, 240 hours of lectures, and 600 hours of hands-on clinical studies. Magan completed the course in roughly six months at College Station, Texas.
This accomplishment isn’t only significant for Magan, but is extremely beneficial to NBG Fire and Emergency Services. The main NBG fire station has advanced life support services (ALS), which requires it to have a paramedic. They currently have paramedics that have moved to Guam from the continental U.S. (CONUS); these paramedics are typically under a transportation agreement to return to CONUS. Having a local paramedic would provide stability to the fire station and save the department money.
“Normally, we get paramedics from the states,” said NBG Fire Chief Gifton A. Lawrence, Jr. “Since I’ve been here, we’ve hired two paramedics on a transportation agreement, which means that we pay for their travel to come over here. It’s roughly tens of thousands of dollars to bring one person over here, and if they return at the end of their two-year tour, it costs us tens of thousands of dollars to send them back.”
Magan said the most challenging part of the course was the clinical studies portion. It involved being out in the field, seeing and helping real-life patients. He described how many calls he responded to came from lower-income neighborhoods, so he experienced a lot of bed-ridden patients.
“The toughest ones to see were highway traumas and seeing people who were actually sick,” said Magan. “It was as real as real can get.”
Magan worked 16-hour days in the emergency room for 13 days straight and one day off. Around 15 calls in a 24-hour period was a standard day for Magan in the clinical field. He would sometimes sleep in his uniform on a reclining chair and just wait for calls to come in. He voluntarily worked a 24-hour on and 24-hour off schedule, while other classmates worked for 24 hours and rested 48 hours.
“I crammed all of my hours in,” said Magan. “I lost a lot of sleep, but I told myself, 'I’ll sleep when I get home.'”
Magan is a Guam Air National Guardsman. He used his GI Bill to pay for the paramedic course, but had to take six months of unpaid leave to complete it and sacrificed time away from his wife and daughter to finish the qualification.
“I’d love to thank my wife, Jhimelina, for supporting me and telling me that I could do it, even when I had doubts,” said Magan. “I want to thank my daughter, Faith. I want to thank the (fire) chiefs; they really supported me while I was back there. Thank you to everyone for supporting me while I was out there.”
“He is motivated,” said Lawrence. “He not only sets goals, he visualizes the outcome. He came to us with this idea several months ago. He did it on leave without pay. He sacrificed a lot, in hopes of gaining even more.”
Magan encourages others to follow their dreams and offers a few words of advice.
“I just want to inspire others,” said Magan. “If you want something, go and get it. There are other guys here that want to be paramedics. I just want them to see, it can be done. I’m the first to do it, but I don’t think I’ll be the last.”
U.S. Naval Base Guam provides and organizes all Navy operations in Guam.
For more news from U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas, visit www.navy.mil/local/guam/.