FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- One weekend each month a special group of medical professionals can be found hustling down the halls of Womack Army Medical Center, giving their best in support of improving medical readiness numbers for Army Reserve, National Guard and Active Duty Soldiers.
The Army is comprised of nearly one million Soldiers across all three components, and the strength of the Army hinges on their collective readiness. The 7458th Medical Backfill Battalion, an Army Reserve Medical Command unit based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, began work with counterparts at WAMC in late 2016 to apply their skills and to help address Soldier needs for individual medical readiness in an initiative called Operation Reserve Care.
"We've had a longstanding relationship with Womack Army Medical Center," said Capt. Tiffany Glass, the clinical operations officer for the 7458th MBB. "They were very receptive to the discussions for Operation Reserve Care, and worked closely with us to get this mission running."
Since the operation began in April of 2016, the 7458th MBB has helped nearly 600 Soldiers go 'green' in their medical readiness, but Operation Reserve Care isn't just about improving the Army Reserve's medical readiness, it's helping improve medical readiness across the Army by providing the same support for National Guard and Active Duty Soldiers in need of assistance, while improving the individual skillsets of ARMEDCOM's personnel providing services.
Maj. Gen. Mary Link, ARMEDCOM commanding general, explains why missions like Operation Reserve Care are so important to the total force.
"This mission is very close to what our medical support units and troop medical clinics do when they mobilize to support medical treatment facilities for their go-to-war mission, so this is really an opportunity for us to train as we fight," said Link. Missions like this one help Army Reserve Medical Command and our active duty counterpart, Army Medical Command, get increasingly closer every day."
The Army Reserve's role as an essential force provider of unique capabilities means they must be able respond quickly, making readiness the number one priority. The emphasis on readiness is not new to America's Army Reserve or to the Army. In Gen. Mark Milley's initial message to the force as the 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, he recognized that the Army's fundamental task at winning the ground combat mission depends on a ready force to win both today's fight while being prepared for the future, and medical readiness is a key part of that equation.
So what can Soldiers and Commanders expect if they take advantage of the services provided with Operation Reserve Care? Col. Melinda Wellborn, commander of 7458th MBB, assures they will have a medically deployable Soldier.
"Soldiers can expect that they won't lack anything when they leave here, and that their medical readiness data will be updated real time, so their commander will know that they are green. Operation Reserve Care is filling a need. It's another option that's available to commanders to use to get at the beast known as medical readiness," said Wellborn.
For Soldiers supporting Operation Reserve Care, there is much enthusiasm for their mission at WAMC.
Capt. Erika Walker, a physician assistant assigned to the 7226th Medical Support Unit based out of Fort Jackson, South Carolina, a subordinate unit to the 7458th MBB, shares her reasons for volunteering for the mission.
"Supporting Operation Reserve Care is fulfilling. I love being able to see Soldiers and treat Soldiers - that's the reason I became a physician assistant, and this gives me the opportunity to both see patients and get some cross-training with the other medical professionals on our team and learn from them based on some of their best practices.
"This is a great opportunity to grow professionally as well as doing cross-collaboration with Womack Army Medical Center," said Walker.
Services provided for Operation Reserve Care include Periodic Health Assessments, dental, audiology, optometry, immunizations, profiles and basic medical services if needed.
"The one thing that people should know about Operation Reserve Care is that we are here to help Soldiers. We have a wide variety of services that we can offer them, and if coordinated in advance, we have the ability to support a large number of Soldiers in any given weekend," said Walker.
EDITOR'S NOTE: For units interested in scheduling larger numbers of personnel for Operation Reserve Care services, please contact Capt. Glass at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
ARMEDCOM's mission is to provide trained, equipped, medically proficient units and Soldiers to meet global requirements across unified land operations. Functionally aligned to Army Medical Command, ARMEDCOM is uniquely capable of simultaneously providing military hospital and clinic expansion, augmentation, blood donor services, and dental and veterinary services while remaining postured to rapidly provide assistance to civil authorities during an emergency or disaster.