For four years, U.S. Army Capt. Bjorn Listerud bounced between deployments, both short- and long-term, to Iraq and Afghanistan. As an environmental science officer, he deployed to Iraq in 2008 for a year with the 4th Infantry Division, tasked with monitoring the safety and sanitation of the food, soil, water and air for his brigade at all their combat outposts and forward operating base south of Baghdad. Listerud was again deployed with a small team out of Public Health Command in the summers of 2010 and 2011 to Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, charged with certifying biological safety cabinets around the region.
With his significant experience at the ground level, Listerud knew he was in for a big change when he received orders to DIA’s National Center for Medical Intelligence in 2012. NCMI provides medical intelligence to the Department of Defense on foreign health threats and capabilities across the substantive areas including infectious disease, chemical/radiation exposures, biological and chemical countermeasures, health infrastructure, sciences, systems, life sciences, and biotechnology. The center not only looks at the long-term threats to DOD interests, but also where opportunities exist.
“I knew what medical intelligence was, but had no idea what it entailed,” said Listerud. “There’s a huge learning curve — all of the things you have to look at, it takes years to fully understand.”
When he first came to NCMI, Listerud focused on analysis of toxic industrial chemical and environmental contamination threats to forces. Events in Syria demanded a shift to analyzing the potential health implications from exposures to chemicals associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program.
Not only has the center benefited from his tour at NCMI, Listerud has learned a tremendous amount in a joint environment. “Having the civilian workforce that isn’t PCS-ing every two to three years gives them an amazing background of information that allows them to put the long-term puzzle together, and that is absolutely valuable,” explained Listerud.
Listerud qualified for the Expert Field Medical Badge at Fort Dix, N.J., April 2 after 10 days of qualification tasks. This badge has a low pass rate, typically ranging from 15 to 25 percent, and is one of the hardest Army skill badges to earn according to the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.
Listerud first had to successfully complete the standard Army Physical Fitness Test, M16 or M4 weapons qualifications, and CPR certification before he could qualify for the badge. Once the prerequisites were met, badge candidates faced rigorous qualifications, including a four-part comprehensive written test, day and night land navigation, a 12-mile march in full combat gear, 12 tactical combat casualty care tasks, eight medical and casualty evacuation tasks, 12 graded warrior skill tasks, and five communication tasks.
“I want to thank my leadership for allowing and understanding the importance of me going off to train,” said Listerud, explaining that without the unit and co-worker support, he wouldn’t have been able to qualify.
For his next assignment, Listerud will return to conventional field work supporting a unit out of U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii. The unit is looking to enhance their medical intelligence capability, and Listerud’s background and recent tour at NCMI make him a perfect fit.