Idaho Guard medical readiness relies on commander and individual Soldier commitment

By 2nd Lt. Crystal FarrisFebruary 1, 2018

Medical readiness relies on commander and individual Soldier commitment
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BOISE, Idaho - The Army's number one priority is ensuring the readiness of our forces to fight and win our nation's wars. Readiness is the capability of our forces to conduct full range military operations and is determined by a unit's manning, equipment and training.

Medical readiness is just one of the factors of personnel readiness, but one that Soldiers and commanders can directly influence.

"We really rely on our Soldiers to be medically ready," said Col. Andrew Thayne, state surgeon for the Idaho Army National Guard. "We have plenty of tools for them to get that done and will help them to do so, but it is every single Soldier's individual responsibility."

Soldiers in the IDARNG are required to complete a Periodic Health Assessment (PHA), vision screening, dental exam, hearing test and individual personnel record review annually during their unit's scheduled Soldier Readiness Processing (SRP) event.

SRP events are coordinated through the installation support unit and scheduled for units to attend annually between October and April. Commanders are responsible for their unit's medical readiness and ensuring their Soldiers attend scheduled events.

"Commanders really need to help us by making sure that all Soldiers who need to go through SRP show up to their scheduled event," said Col. Thomas McMahan, deputy commander of clinical services. "We know there are going to be exceptions that make attending these events not possible, and with command emphasis, we can address these situations too."

Soldiers who miss their unit's SRP date have multiple opportunities to make it up, including attending another unit's SRP event, visiting the medical detachment during the week, utilizing the state's fully funded voucher system or by receiving support through their unit's organic medical assets.

The medical detachment on Gowen Field has a full-time physician assistant dedicated to conducting SRP and other medical related assessments. Appointments to see the physician assistant and complete PHAs can be scheduled every Tuesday and Thursday.

The voucher system offers traditional Soldiers a way to obtain medical and dental examinations, and authorized treatment, from civilian providers at no cost. Funding can also be made available for hearing and vision tests, as well as immunizations like the influenza vaccination.

Commanders that have medical providers, such as doctors or physician assistants assigned to their units, can utilize this resource to complete PHAs with their Soldiers as training schedules allow.

Within 30 days of a scheduled SRP event, Soldiers are expected to complete a PHA questionnaire in order to provide SRP personnel a brief and accurate picture of their current health status. The questionnaire is accessible through the 'my medical' link on the Army Knowledge Online website.

After Soldiers complete an SRP event, commanders need to track Soldiers who will require follow-on medical or dental support as determined during the SRP event. Commanders must monitor their unit's medical readiness status and individual Soldier progress toward achieving a fully medical ready status. Using the Commander's Portal accessible through the Medical Operational Data System suite can do this.

"It's a great dashboard that is easy to look at and breaks down by category where all the Soldiers are at," said Capt. Christopher Stoker, deputy state surgeon and medical detachment unit commander. "If commanders can get comfortable with at least logging in monthly it will bring their attention to whether or not their units are medically ready."

Currently the Idaho Army National Guard's medical ready rate is approximately seven percent below the National Guard Bureau's recommended goal of 90 percent. This is in part due to the number of Soldiers who do not complete their annual medical readiness processing and assessments.

"We consistently see a 20 percent no-show rate for units at their events," said Stoker. "If Soldiers aren't able to make their unit's SRP we urge commanders to get them scheduled for a make-up event as soon as possible."

To schedule SRP make up events, PHA appointments on Gowen Field, or inquire about vouchers, units can contact the state medical readiness non-commissioned officer at 208-272-4141.

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