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USU Professor Recognized for Military Service, Conservation Efforts

Thursday, Aug. 01, 2013

USU professor Terry Messmer
Terry Messmer, Quinney Professor for Wildlife Conflict Management in USU's Department of Wildland Resources, was recently praised by Gov. Herbert for community-based conservation efforts and also honored for military medical service.
USU professor Terry Messmer in Iraq in 2003
Col. Messmer, pictured during a 2003 deployment to Iraq, holds a stuffed bear named 'Buffy,' a gift from his sister’s kindergarten class, while checking an air sampling device. Gifts like Buffy are a common sight among G.I.s during missions, he says.

Utah State University professor Terry Messmer is watching efforts started years ago yield promising results and well-deserved kudos. The wildlife biologist was lauded in a recent letter from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to USU President Stan Albrecht for his long-standing work in coordinating conservation of the state’s greater sage-grouse.


“Utah stands apart because its science-based conservation efforts and habitat restoration projects have been ongoing for more than a decade,” the governor wrote in the April 5, 2013, letter. “I would specifically like to recognize the contribution of Dr. Terry Messmer and his team of more than 25 graduate students who completed degrees at USU based on the research of sage-grouse ecology.”


Gov. Herbert continued his praise citing Messmer’s work with local working groups and innovative implementation of community-based conservation programs; the latter a model for public-private collaborative partnerships throughout the country.


Outside the academic realm, Messmer, a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves, was recently named to the Order of Military Medical Merit, an elite group of honorees selected by the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Health Services Command. Admission to the order recognizes exemplary contributions of service to the U.S. Army Medical Department.


“This honor really goes to all the outstanding soldiers I’ve ever had the privilege of working with through the years,” says Messmer, who, in addition to his faculty appointment with USU’s Department of Wildland Resources, is Quinney Professor for Wildlife Conflict Management and director of the USU-based Berryman Institute, as well as a USU wildlife Extension specialist.


Wildlife-human conflict management and military medical operations may seem miles apart, but they share a common denominator, Messmer says.


“Both are about people and that’s all about listening,” he says. “We have a lot of science-based knowledge, but people don’t have time to wade through all the data.”


People affected by a situation need to be involved in the solution process, Messmer says.


“Together, all stakeholders need to define the problem from varied perspectives, set aside preconceived notions, assess needs and determine appropriate action,” he said.


A military service member since 1971, humanitarian missions are among Messmer’s proudest accomplishments while in uniform. Following deployment to Guatemala in 2001 and recognizing great needs, he returned to the Central American country as part of an international task force to provide health care for more than 20,000 people and build five schools. In 2002, the North Dakota native coordinated efforts to send more than 400 desks on a military cargo plane loaded with school supplies to equip the schools, located in an impoverished region recovering from decade-long rebel activity.


“Our efforts were delayed by a hurricane and by Middle East deployments, but we got it done,” he says. “It was exciting to see the much-needed supplies in the hands of Guatemalan school children.”


In his current army assignment, Messmer is commander of the Aurora, Colo.-based, 1835th Medical Detachment. His focus is implementation of the army’s Combat and Operational Stress Control initiative.


Messmer and his team are working toward prevention of suicide, a rising cause of death among military service members.


Messmer, himself, has been shaken by suicide among his own troops.


“I missed the risk signals,” he says. “With this new program, we’re trying to let soldiers know, first of all, they’re not alone.”


Military training traditionally embraces a “no pain, no gain” ethos. Asking for help, Messmer says, is sometimes perceived as a sign of weakness.


“We have to instill the idea that admitting pain, whether emotional or physical, is an act of resilience,” he says.


Combat stress is an obvious suicide risk factor, but Messmer says issues common to civilians also trigger emotional distress.


“Failed relationships, financial pressures, drug and alcohol abuse — these are all contributing factors,” he says. “We have to let people know that resources are available and it’s OK to ask for help.”


Related links:


Contact: Terry Messmer, 435-797-3975, terry.messmer@usu.edu

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517, maryann.muffoletto@usu.edu

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