Former soldier becomes Barton paramedic student

Erik Berger

CTE Month 2016: This feature is the first of four stories to be released by Barton Community College in February in celebration of Career Technical Education (CTE) Month.

CTE Month® is an annual celebration held in February of CTE community members’ achievements and accomplishments nationwide. CTE Month 2016 gives the CTE community a chance to tell the stories of leadership and excellence from classrooms across the country, and raise awareness of the crucial role that CTE has in readying our nation for economic success and workforce competitiveness.

February 3, 2016
Story and photo by Joe Vinduska

Former soldier becomes Barton paramedic student

After graduating high school in 1998, Hoisington-area resident Erik Berger joined the US Army and became an engineer and combat lifesaver. In 2003 he suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq. Emergency responders saved his life that day.

“The way they went about saving my life got me interested in EMS,” Berger said. “The EMS family takes care of each other and I wanted that in my civilian life.”

Berger’s injury lead to problems with memory loss and he also suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was out of the army in 2004 and after spending time healing, adapting to civilian life and learning how to cope with his injuries and PTSD, he was ready for a fresh start.  He earned his associate degree from Barton in 2008 and started working through the Emergency Medical Services programs, starting at Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and is now on pace to complete his Paramedic certification, which is the upper echelon of the EMS world. During that time, he began working for Russell County EMS in 2013 and is now full-time. Becoming a paramedic will allow him to do almost anything he would need to do to save a life while on the job.

Berger said his Barton experience helped prepare him for the field and the training equipment was very helpful.

“The equipment here is pretty top notch compared to other stuff I’ve seen,” he said. “They have everything you would ever see out in the real world so you can at least put your hands on it and know what it is.”

In addition to the equipment, Berger said the instructors all have experience in the field, which has helped him learn.

“They can use their past experiences and tie those into what we are talking about in the classroom, so it gives you some context and really helps you paint a picture so you can remember,” he said.

Berger also said Barton’s “Field Ops Day,” which is a large-scale set of real-world scenarios designed to prepare students, is very valuable.

“It’s kind of a wakeup call to show you that all the books and studying and hands on stuff that you do, you actually have to do it in real life and teaches you how you can do it in real life,” he said.

One of the most important things to Berger is the camaraderie he finds with his co-workers.

“It feels good because you know you have each other’s backs at all times,” he said. “If you have a problem, you know they’ll back you 110 percent, because you’ve gone through intense situations together.  They’re not going to let you fail, and you’re not going to let them fail.”

Berger said at the end of the day it’s all about helping people.

“The looks you get when you know you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life, that’s really satisfying,” he said. “When you see someone walking down the street because you saved their life, it’s just really rewarding if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.”

For more information on the EMS program, contact Director of EMS Education Karyl White at whitek@bartonccc.edu or (620) 792-9347.

CTE month will culminate with a Career Technical Education Fair from 1-3 p.m. on Feb. 29 in the Case New Holland Shop in the Northeast side of the Technical building. The fair is available for 8th grade students, high school students, current Barton students, community members and will feature demonstrations, hands-on-activities, refreshments, prizes and photo ops with the Barton mascot.  To sign up, contact Denise Schreiber at (620) 792-9324 or schreiberd@bartonccc.edu by Friday, February 19th.