First responders and others fighting on the medical front lines have gained well-deserved recognition during the COVID-19 pandemic for their courage, skills and determination.
One such professional is Navy Seaman Hector Conde, a hospital corpsman serving in the immunization department of Navy Medicine and Readiness Training Command Sigonella at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy.
Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy
Immunizations Department, Navy Medicine and Readiness Training Command Sigonella
Conde joined the Navy in August 2017 to help financially support his family.
“We were not wealthy,” Conde recalled. “We didn’t have a home for a couple of years.”
His mother worked hard to support the family and keep them together, setting an example that Conde would follow.
“My mother got her GED and worked on her citizenship while she took care of her children,” Conde said. “We each sacrificed some of our childhood to keep working towards our goals to one day have a home and earn a college education, but the most important goal was to keep our family close because that was all we had in the world for us to rely on.”
Conde graduated in 2015 from Fox Tech Medical Law and Magnet School in San Antonio while at the same time helping to build the family home.
“When I wasn’t constructing our home or working, I would use that time to learn how to build classic cars with my friends and flip them for profit,” Conde said. “Or, I would dedicate a weekend for an outdoor trip of hiking, camping and fishing to get some peace and quiet. ”
Early on, Conde stepped into the role of a father figure for his siblings.
“I wanted to give them the best chance of accomplishing their dreams, of going to college and becoming what they dreamt of when we were in poverty,” he said.
With a smile on his face, Conde proudly explained that his younger brother is now attending law school and already has two law firms already scouting him once he graduates. His younger sister has started attending school to become a registered nurse.
Conde works tirelessly, providing immunizations and vaccines for everybody, from infants all the way to the oldest members of the Sigonella community. He sometimes sees up to 80 patients in a single day, always with a professional, calming demeanor.
“The best part of my job is being exposed to medicine and the knowledge [the medical] providers and experienced corpsman provide to new corpsman,” Conde said. “Once you have learned your job, there are responsibilities and a sense of pride no other rate can compare to. My role makes me proud to be a corpsman.”
Since his arrival at the command in August 2020, in addition to providing regular pediatric well-child vaccines, Conde has been an integral part in the success of the various shot exercises to provide COVID-19 vaccines and seasonal immunizations to not just the Sigonella community, but to U.S. 5th Fleet and U.S. 6th Fleet personnel as well.
Performing Above His Pay Grade
“Hospitalman Conde is a solid and meticulous performer, admirably filling a position usually two pay grades higher than his own,” Lt. j.g. Tiffany Tween, Conde’s supervisor, said.
“Conde is a standout junior sailor whose level of responsibility is above his pay grade and yet he takes it in stride. He is certainly a bright light within the department and hospital as a whole.”
Conde considers his work in the immunizations department to be the biggest accomplishment in his Navy career so far.
“To become a subject matter expert, I have studied the immunizations literature at home and have memorized everything from name, brands, treatment, intervals, dosages, etc.,” Conde said. “I need to be situationally aware of anything that the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has passed.”
Time to Breathe
Outside of work, Conde ensures that he takes time for himself.
Since being stationed in Sicily, the Syracuse Bay has been Conde’s favorite place to visit on the island, allowing him to find the peace and quiet he found while camping in Texas.
“It is peaceful to be in the jetties, fishing with the sound of waves and the silence,” he said.
“It’s the chance to be alone in your thoughts and problems so you can have time to problem solve and sharpen your skills as a sailor as well as a human being, all because you have the time to breathe.”
Nevertheless, he treasures the sense of community he’s found in the Navy.
“Serving in the Navy means loyalty, strength and dedication,” Conde said. “It offers a community that will go through any barrier, obstacle or problem together.”