By Lt. Col. Angela WallaceJune 29, 2017
ROSEBUD, S.D. -- Readiness continues to be a top priority for leaders across the U.S. Army, as well as within Army Reserve Medical Command. As the Army Reserve's premier medical command that provides vital medical capabilities essential to the total force, the command's leaders have to ensure that their Soldiers receive relevant training in realistic environments to ensure they are ready when the nation calls.
As part of this training, approximately 25 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to Army Reserve Medical Command's Central Medical Area Readiness Support Group are working in partnership with Rosebud Indian Health Service to provide medical care to the local tribal population. The Indian Health Service provides preventive, curative, and community health care for approximately 2.2 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in hospitals, clinics, and other settings throughout the United States.
Staff Sgt. Timothy Cihla, a licensed practical nurse assigned to the 7455th Medical Backfill Battalion, explained why working at the Rosebud Comprehensive Health Care Facility has been beneficial for him.
"For my civilian work, I'm an endocrinology nurse, so I focus on a specific area. Here we see a variety of patients who need anything from immunizations, to sutures, to splints. This is a good learning opportunity, that's helping to expand my skillset," said Cihla.
Services provided by Army Reserve personnel are approved through the Department of Defense's Innovative Readiness Training program, a civil-military program that builds mutually beneficial partnerships between U.S. communities and the DOD. The missions selected meet training and readiness requirements for Army Reserve Soldiers, while integrating them as a joint and whole-of-society team to serve American citizens.
Sgt. Jennifer Kunsch, a dental assistant assigned to the 7406th Troop Medical Clinic out of Colombia, Missouri, shared her excitement about the experiences. "Yesterday we went out to a small community with a Head Start program that had children that ranged from one month to five years old. Parents brought their kids in and the kids got a full physical, they got their teeth checked, and we put fluoride paste on their teeth to prevent future damage," said Kunsch.
"It's heartwarming to be able to help those that need our help," she continued. "Whenever you're doing mock training, it isn't meaningful. When you do missions like this, you get to help people who need your help. I was super excited when I heard we would be providing care on a reservation for annual training because we did that last year and I loved it."
This experience provides Kunsch with both tangible training and affirmation about her service in the U.S. Army Reserve. "For someone like me who only does medical billing while sitting at a desk every day, I don't get a lot of hands on experience," she said. "Training like this is perfect for me, because if I were to get called up for a mission, then I have more knowledge and I'll be better prepared for the mission. Whenever I'm needed, I'll be ready."
During the two-week period, the small medical team worked with nearly 800 patients between medical and dental appointments, and provided over 500 diagnostic procedures, including x-rays and lab work.
Sgt. Kevin Stevenson, a radiologist assigned to the 7228th Medical Support Unit in Columbia, Missouri, is enjoying his first experience working on a reservation and with the medical staff at Rosebud.
"The medical field is always changing, especially the technology, so not doing this kind of work on the civilian side puts me a little behind the curve. Coming here helps refresh my skills which is a huge plus.
"I've been working directly with the staff here, and I'm learning something new every day," he said. "So far, my favorite thing has been working with the local population and getting to work with the staff. I've been expanding my skills and it's been rewarding."