By Lt. Col. Angela WallaceAugust 3, 2017
WOLF POINT, Mont. -- When U.S. Army Reserve Soldier Sgt. Cynthia Lewis, a combat medic assigned to 7239th Medical Support Unit, found out she was going to participate in another Innovative Readiness Training mission for her unit's annual training this year, she was overcome with joy.
"I like to help people, and this feels like I'm helping the population. The Soldier's Creed says we serve the people of the United States and this mission feels like I'm doing that. The people we support in these missions are underprivileged and in need medically, and this feels like I'm living the Soldier's Creed," said Lewis.
This is the second IRT mission Lewis has supported, and during her previous mission she forged a special bond with Indian Health Service staff, including a prior-service Marine who is a member of the Dakota Sioux tribe.
"Last year during our IRT mission, I became very close with one of the emergency medical technicians I worked with, and he and his wife actually adopted me. We had a ceremony and everything, so I'm now an adopted Dakota Sioux. It's been a year since I've seen them, but I talk with them two or three times a week," Lewis explained of her new Native American family.
Though many Soldiers supporting the Fort Peck IHS IRT mission echoed Lewis' enthusiasm for supporting a community in need, Lt. Col. William Walker, the 7239th MSU commander and officer-in-charge for the Fort Peck mission, explained other elements that make this mission so important.
"What this mission does is it gives my Soldiers real-world experience. This is the real thing and you can't replicate that as far as experience is concerned. These missions also allow us to focus on our Soldier skills during battle assembly which are just as important as our ability to help personnel on the battle field," Walker said.
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to Army Reserve Medical Command's 7239th MSU, in partnership with Fort Peck IHS, offered health care services at the Verne E. Gibbs Health Center in Poplar, Montana, and Chief Redstone Health Clinic in Wolf Point, Montana, from July 15 - 29. During their mission, Soldiers provided support to patients 1,075 times over the two-week period, including over 750 initial medical visits and more than 125 dental visits.
The Indian Health Service provides preventive, curative, and community health care for approximately 2.2 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives in hospitals, clinics, and other settings throughout the United States.
Medical services provided by ARMEDCOM personnel are done through the Department of Defense's Innovative Readiness Training, 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 Active, Guard and Reserve service members while integrating them as a joint and whole-of-society team to serve American citizens.
"I think it's important for those outside the military to understand that not only is this mission an opportunity for us to help a population in need of our services, but it also helps us do our jobs better as medical professionals, which will help us keep our fighting force healthy so they can defend our country," concluded Walker.
Myrna Kampel, lead medical technologist for Verne E. Gibbs Health Center, shared her perspective on the positive impact that these IRT missions have.
"They bring knowledge of bigger hospitals ... knowledge of different instruments and knowledge of what they do in their everyday lives. They bring that with them and they share that with us.
"It really helps when they come here and help us out, because we're minimal staff, so it's nice to have that extra help. Thank you for sending these people here for two weeks. We learn as much from them as they do from us," said Campett.