U.S. Army Garrison -- Okinawa recently enhanced its ability to respond to emergency medical situations on and off post by standing up an ambulance crew who will be able to respond to SOFA-status personnel that are in need of medical transport to the hospital.

An 11-person team of firefighters and emergency medical technicians will be on-hand 24/7 in order to serve the pre-hospital emergency medical service needs of service members, Families and civilians in Yomitan Village and Torii Station.

"Our Soldiers and their Families, and our civilian employees rarely think about what happens when things go wrong," said Fire Chief Charlie Butler. "We don't want them to worry about it. We're here to take care of them if and when they need it."

The methods for contacting emergency responders hasn't changed. If medical attention is needed, the Directorate of Emergency Services encourages SOFA-status personnel to call 911 when calling from a DSN line. They also ask that cell phone users plug the following numbers into their devices in case of emergency: 098-934-5911 or 098-911-1911.

These numbers will patch service members, Families and civilians into a central dispatch who will notify the Torii Station emergency responders of an incident in their area of responsibility.

" … We can and will respond off-post to any SOFA member's residence or any location they're at such as a local beach or a car accident within our area of responsibility which stretches from Yomitan, North to Cape Zampa and East to Highway 58," said Butler.

Emergency managers partnered with Kadena Air Force Base and the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa to develop a solution that was cost-effective and provides a more robust service, according to officials.

The support of the Air Force's 18th Medical Group, the Naval Hospital and U.S. Army Garrison Okinawa's command group were critical in strengthening the installation's medical capability, according to DES Director, CPT. Oscar Beltran.

Beltran also said that the service will also benefit local nationals and or contractors on Torii Station who are in need of urgent medical care, while noting Torii Station's ambulance services could help supplement local national first responders in a contingency when they request support.

"Without ambulatory transport, a medical situation could get worse and risk losing life, limb or eye sight," said Beltran.