More than 160 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines arrived in Georgia June 6 for the 2021 East Central Georgia Medical Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) with a mission to provide no cost health care services to four counties in rural Georgia.
The teams provided 10 days of medical exams; dental services including exams, fillings and extractions; eye care services consisting of screenings, prescriptions, and single vision eyeglass fabrication; and veterinary services including screenings, dental exams, vaccines, and spays and neuters for small animals.
The team performed 30,587 medical procedures for 1,561 patients. The estimated fair market medical value of the care was $858,869.
The Georgia event was part of a Department of Defense initiative. The Innovative Readiness Training delivers joint training opportunities to increase deployment readiness, approved by a team from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The scope of these readiness trainings for reservists and guardsmen includes health care, construction, cybersecurity, and transportation.
The IRT mission in east central Georgia provided hands-on training to Reserve and National Guard medical and medical support personnel, while simultaneously providing valuable services to the communities. The event yielded 14,019 training hours for the military members.
“A lot of us need our proficiencies maintained and it is a great way for us to achieve that, while serving the community,” said U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Kim Ebel, mission officer in charge, 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron.
Approximately 18 medical and support personnel from the 445th ASTS, Aeromedical Evacuation and Aerospace Medicine Squadrons, and Airlift Wing participated in the IRT. The training mission was filled with doctors, nurses, optometrists, dentists, veterinarians and the many ‘behind the scenes’ positions it takes to support these fields. While their roles are diverse, the joint services group, both enlisted and officers, all share common goals – honing their individual skills, being part of a team, and serving the people of the community.
Accomplishing the training in concert with community partnerships is another unique aspect of the IRT. This Georgia mission was sponsored by the Central Savannah River Area Regional Commission, a nonprofit planning and development agency based in Augusta. CSRA-RC applied to the program after having successfully cooperated with IRT in 2019.
“We are honored to partner with the U.S. Armed Forces, local county and city governments, and local public health departments to bring this health-care opportunity to members of our communities,” said Andy Crosson, executive director of CSRARC. “The service members are often deeply impacted because they don’t realize the unmet needs of the people who have never had the medical services they are providing.”
The community partners welcomed the military medical services and the four counties where the clinics were located were grateful, because these communities are separated from larger cities making it difficult to access health care.
Georgia Sen. Max Burns, 23rd District, visited the Jenkins County location to tour the operations and expressed his gratitude to those who came to the district to improve the quality of life for the residents.
“This is a unique and challenging community. This is a rural area of Georgia that is dramatically underserved,” said Burns. “We have a population that often does not get the medical support that they need, either through lack of education, or knowledge, or opportunity.
We try hard to provide health services access to our top tier medical capacity in the state. We have some great ones in Augusta, Savannah, Macon and Atlanta, but sometimes when you’re out in the rural areas you don’t have access to them.”
Ebel, who participated in an IRT in 2018, felt called to lead a mission and applied for the position. The officer in charge has a lot of passion for helping people and it shines through in the tireless way she serves.
“We love it,” she said, “We are just so happy to be here and serve the community. It’s very rewarding.”
Regardless of planning efforts, it is essential to be resilient in the face of adversity as obstacles to mission execution arise, as no amount of planning can totally eliminate unforeseen events. This mission was no exception. From shipments of equipment not arriving as scheduled, to manning dropouts, flat tires, water advisories in the area, being able to roll with the punches is a sign of great leadership and another training benefit of a real life mission.
“As a team we have been able to adapt on a dime and make sure the mission happens in spite of all the hiccups,” said Ebel. “At the end of the mission, it actually feels even more satisfying knowing that everyone here went above and beyond, and rose to the occasion when called upon, that is what matters.”
Planning, overcoming the obstacles, and mission execution are all a big part of the training for the officers selected to be in charge of the mission. In addition to the applicable job and leadership training, all of the participating service members also received the DOD’s new Tactical Combat Casualty Care training, or TCCC.
The course introduces life-saving techniques more applicable to the situations faced by the joint services in the new deployed environment. The training team also planned useful and practical professional development training opportunities for all of the service members, such as bullet writing, completing performance reports and using the Defense Travel System.
With all of the diverse training, real world impact and benefit to the community, Ebel said she believes that everyone who has the opportunity to participate in an IRT should do so.
“It’s life changing,” she added.
By Senior Airman Erin Zimpfer, 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs