By CourtesyJuly 22, 2019
Story by Maj. George Milevich, U.S. Army Reserve
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Training is a primary focus for Army Reserve Medical Units during their weekend duty, known as battle assemblies, and during annual training. Leaders look for creative ways to provide meaningful training that meets objectives while resonating with their Soldiers, and for the medical professionals assigned to 7207th Medical Support Unit, based out of Webster, New York, that is the opportunity they were given while supporting the Healthy Cortland and Greater Chenango Cares Innovative Readiness Training mission in Cortland July 9-22, 2019.
Innovative Readiness Training is a collaborative mission between the Department of Defense and civil authorities that meets training and readiness needs to maintain the military's combat readiness while addressing the needs within America's local communities.
In addition to the nearly forty Army Reserve personnel with the 7207th MSU, this IRT mission brought together healthcare professionals from the U.S. Army, Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard and the Navy to meet various healthcare needs of those living in Cortland County.
The Southern Tier Aid Regional Planning Board requested this IRT mission through the Department of Defense in order to provide unmet medical needs in Cortland County according to Susan Williams, the Assistant Director of Cortland County Planning Department. "In addition to the military members, there are over 280 civilian volunteers that helped make this mission a success," said Williams.
Soldiers, sailors and airmen involved in Healthy Cortland, offered the local residents healthcare screening, dental care, eye care including glasses and even took care of their pets.
"This event provided care for the entire family, including the four-legged members," said Jackie Leaf, the executive director of Seven Valleys Health Coalition, an organization that co-lead the event with the Cortland County Planning department.
MAJ Deanna Howell, a veterinarian with the U.S. Army and the Officer-In-Charge for veterinary services for the Healthy Cortland mission, noted that on daily basis their veterinarians are able to provide much needed vaccinations and perform spay and neutering services as well as deworming medications at no cost to pet owners. "It's exciting to see the community come out, and be able to receive these services from highly trained providers," said Howell.
This IRT mission aligned specific community needs with military mission essential training requirements to ensure combat readiness for those participating in the mission. "All services provided during this mission were provided at no cost to the patients or pet owners while providing an invaluable training opportunity to the military members and building a strong relationship between the military and the American citizens that they serve," said Lt. Col. Michael Spillane, commander of 7207th Medical Support Unit.
"As the MSU Commander, this IRT mission brings opportunity for our Soldiers to interact with other branches of the military, and allows them to see other ways to provide care," said Spillane.
Military healthcare providers began seeing patients on July 11th at Homer Junior High School in Homer and at Norwich High School in Norwich, and the stream of patients has been steadily increasing since services began.
Capt. Danielle Primerano, the OIC of the Homer location, said her team has seen over 200 people and 100 animals by their fourth day of supporting Healthy Cortland.
"The mission has been fantastic, because we get to meet the community as they come out to receive these services that we are able to provide with our great providers" said Primerano.
The parking lot is almost full, and the patients look happy to receive much needed care. Soldiers are fully engaged in providing care to their patients and feel that they are part of a meaningful mission.
Spc. Sierra Chouinard, a former black hawk helicopter repair specialist and a newly minted Army medical healthcare specialist from Fillmore, New York, assigned to 7207th MSU, said the mission has special meaning for her as she works to further solidify her skills learned as an Army medic. "Working alongside the Navy and the Air Force servicemembers, I was able to job shadow and learn how our sister services operate," said Chouinard.
Many of the Army Reserve medical professionals supporting the Healthy Cortland and Greater Chenango Cares IRT mission bring extensive civilian experience with them. Lt. Col. Todd Havens, and his brother Lt. Col. John Havens are dental providers who have decades of experience in private practice as owners of their own dentistry office in Niagara Falls, New York.
Maj. Jessica Blakely, another dentist providing dental care for the mission, is a practicing dentist as well as a member of the State University of New York at Buffalo dental school faculty. Participating in this IRT mission is an opportunity for these providers to bring their vast experience to provide care to the Cortland County community while training as a team in a real-world environment.
During the two-week period, the Joint medical team provided more than 21,280 medical and dental services for over 3,500 residents, including general exams, school exams, nutrition counseling, dental exams and x-rays, and general cleaning and extractions.
Army Reserve Medical Command's mission is to provide trained, equipped, medically proficient units and Citizen-Soldiers to meet global requirements across unified land operations.