By Staff Sgt. David ClemenkoApril 7, 2016
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- The Army Reserve's 99th Regional Support Command helps Soldiers, Sailors and Airman prepare for real-world medical training missions across the country, and it all begins here at Equipment Concentration Site 99.
This 75,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art medical storage and maintenance site provides a secure, climate-controlled environment in which to store medical, dental, optical and veterinary equipment, and maintain and repair bio-medical equipment, x-ray machines, ventilators and defibrillators.
The medical mission ECS 99 supports is called the Innovative Readiness Training program and has been around for many years. The program is run by the Department of Defense, but requires a massive amount of planning and execution by many levels of government to include local and state, as well as almost every branch of service.
The IRT program has a two-fold mission: The program provides necessary training to medical and dental personnel across all branches of service, and also provides much-needed medical and dental care to underserviced areas right here in America.
"The intent of the IRT program is to train our Soldiers and give them hands-on, real-world training," said Master Sgt. Charles C. Marshall, NCOIC, G-4, 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support). "The residual effect is we take care of the civilian population."
This year, there are nine missions IRT missions scheduled across the country, from Alaska to New York to Hawaii, as well as a mission that has been dubbed a "super mission" that will take place in West Memphis, Tennessee.
"It's a two-year process leading up to a mission," said Marshall. "It starts with a request from a state or local government office, which is then funneled to DoD. Once the state has approval, we come in and begin the planning, which requires massive amounts of equipment, supplies and personnel, as well as cross-branch coordination."
In a typical year, the IRT program can help up to 40,000 people in communities in need of medical, optical, dental and, in some missions, veterinary help. There is no insurance requirement, no identification -- just show up and get a medical, dental and optical screening. Participants can walk away with new fillings, medical advice and a new pair of glasses, at no charge.
"The last mission of the year is specifically for veterans, and this year it will be run by the Air Force," said Marshall. "They bring in up to 500 veterans and build a tent city to house them. The mission helps with everything from medical, dental, to even job placement."
While the Air Force is managing the veteran-focused IRT mission at the end of the year, the planning, equipment and supplies will all run through ECS 99 here.
To support a mission of this magnitude, the coordination of supplies and equipment is a monumental task. That is where the 99th RSC comes in. The command opened the Army Reserve's first-ever medical storage and maintenance facility at ECS 99 in early 2012, and the site has become a one-stop shop for medical equipment storage, maintenance and training.
"The plus side of this mission is that we get to help underserved communities," said Bernard J. Olszewski, ECS 99 manager. "I heard of a story about a girl in Alaska who had a pair of glasses made for her and it was the first time she could see the blackboard at school."
Olszewski explained that the equipment at ECS 99 needs constant maintenance. From dental equipment like drills and dental chairs, to medical equipment like pulse oximetry and thermometers, as well as optical equipment -- it all needs to be ready. This is where Soldiers like Spc. Alyssa Collins, a bio-medical equipment technician, have the opportunity to hone their skills and provide much-needed maintenance on approximately 550 pieces of equipment the ECS maintains for the IRT missions.
"I help maintain and repair the medical equipment that goes out to all the IRT missions," said Collins. "The medical equipment needs to maintained and repaired because it's being used on patients. Doing the proper maintenance ensures proper safety for patients and equipment operators."
In addition to the maintenance of equipment, there is the inventory of a massive amount of supplies. Soldiers from every branch come to the ECS to help during their annual training.
"We check for expiration dates while we execute a physical inventory of everything in the warehouse," said Sgt. Jason Gelfand, medical logistics specialist, 3rd MCDS. "We are filling real-world missions here in the United States, so it's nice to know we are helping fellow Americans."
The IRT missions are an example of local, state, federal and military personal working together to support a crucial training mission, while helping American citizens. Ensuring service members and units have properly stored and maintained medical equipment will allow the Army Reserve to remain an enduring and essential part of the nation's Operational Force.