Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport electrical engineer Gary Huntress, of the Software Engineering Branch in the Platform and Payload Integration Department, spends his off-duty time responding to emergency calls in his hometown of Swansea, Massachusetts. Huntress has found work/life balance in helping others. (Photo by Rich Allen, McLaughlin Research Corp./Released)

Opting to work as an emergency medical technician in one’s free time might seem like an odd choice for finding work-life balance. For Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport engineer Gary Huntress, though, years of helping others has given him a sense of peace and purpose.

“The paramedics in an ambulance are just like Sailors on a ship,” Huntress said. “There is a hierarchy, comradery and teamwork. They’re my fleet.” 

Huntress, a resident of Swansea, Massachusetts, and a member of the town’s Ambulance Corps’ board of directors, in 2009 decided to become an EMT. Having served on the board for five years, he believed he needed to experience directly what emergency response crews do in order to make better decisions for the organization. He also was motivated by a colleague at Division Newport who had saved a 4-year-old from drowning.

“I have three kids and I wanted to make sure that I was never in a situation where I would be unable to act in an emergency,” Huntress said.

SAC operates two ambulances 24 hours a day, with 12-hour shifts that run from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Huntress works every Friday from 6 p.m. through Saturday at 6 a.m. and often fills in other shifts when needed. 

To get his EMT basic certification Huntress attended a four-month class, where topics such as cardiology and pharmacology were covered in depth. 

“About one-third of the class time is spent in the lab, with hands-on mock emergencies,” Huntress said.

Emergency scenarios include extrication from a vehicle, making a medical assessment, conducting cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and utilizing patient-management skills. EMT re-certification is required every two years and includes 24 hours of refresher lectures on the core EMT curriculum, plus 20 hours of continuing education in five different topic areas.

An electrical engineer in the Software Engineering Branch in the Platform and Payload Integration Department, Huntress’ expertise lies in software development, a skill that came in handy early in his EMT training. In 2008, iPhones were just emerging and for a class project, Huntress learned how to write iPhone apps tailored for EMTs.

“Writing apps for this is fun,” he said. “I love my job and I love being an EMT.”

Huntress’ entire Division Newport career has been software related. In 2012, when artificial intelligence and its subset machine learning became successful, companies began basing their products on machine learning. Huntress spoke to Division Newport leadership and co-workers about the importance of machine learning, and he was asked to establish a Machine Learning Community of Interest (CoI). He also has conducted a machine learning offsite event that included skiing for a weekend, and recently conducted a three-day boot camp in machine learning.

There have been times in Huntress’ career when his work at Division Newport and as an EMT have overlapped. A couple of years ago, the Microsoft Hololens debuted as a state-of-the-art augmented reality device that overlays digital images on the real world. It remains prohibitively expensive for consumer use, but Huntress hopes that someday such a device will be affordable enough to be utilized for EMT training. Currently, he uses his adapted devices for demonstration purposes.

The Hololens measures the walls, floor, furnishings, etc. of the space to determine where the virtual patient is placed and creates a realistic-looking hologram of a young man lying on his back. The user can walk around the patient and direct the device to measure blood pressure and respiration rate, and determine the state of the patient’s pupils. The user then can proffer a diagnosis and get immediate feedback on its accuracy.

“You never know what you’re going to respond to, a car crashing into a funeral home, an animal incident, a missing person or a multiagency event,” Huntress said.

“There are certainly calls that stick with you because of the intensity,” Huntress added. “For instance, a 5-year-old calls 911 and says ‘my mommy is dying,’ working a cardiac arrest surrounded by family members, or waking up an opiate overdose victim, who is younger than my kids, with Narcan.”

Huntress says that 90% of the calls are much less severe than these situations, but most patients are nevertheless overwhelmed when they call for help and a bunch of strangers show up with equipment, radios and lights.

“The best experiences are when we can take a patient from that scene and back them down from scared and crying to being calm and sometimes even laughing,” Huntress said.  

Not all of his experiences involve trauma. Last Halloween, Huntress and his associates helped a young Swansea resident with cerebral palsy go trick-or-treating for the first time.

“He was not mobile, but that didn’t stop him from having a great time,” Huntress said. “He even got to dress up as an EMT!”

Huntress’ EMT expertise is widely known at Division Newport, and he has been called on to assist in some non-life threatening situations. He has taught a number of CPR classes and is adamant about how important it is for people to learn this skill.

“The out-of-hospital survival rate for cardiac arrest is horrible,” Huntress said. “It’s less than 10%.” 

Huntress has trained hundreds of people in the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) like the one at AED Advantage Sales Ltd. and the Division now has one in every major building.

He also has analyzed more than 10 years of ambulance calls, broken down by the hour, to see if there are any patterns predicting dangerous times.

“Every day of the week is the same,” he said. “There is no statistical difference between Fridays and other days.”   

NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare. 

Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869.  Commanded by Captain Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher’s Island, N.Y., Leesburg, Fla., and Dodge Pond, Conn.

Source: By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs | Oct. 18, 2019


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