Working across services from coast to coast

By Kirstin Grace-SimonsJanuary 5, 2022

Logistics training
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Master Sgt. Sandra Byrd, an Air Force Reservist who is in health services administration but supervises a logistics technician, partakes in training in logistics at Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., along with others from her fellow Airmen in the 116th Medical Group out of Robins Air Force Base in Georgia, on Sept. 21.
(Photo Credit: Kirstin Grace-Simons)
Training in the ER
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Maj. Colby Suttles, an emergency room physician assistant, Tech Sgt. Jessica Jimenez, a medical technician, and Maj. Rolando de Luna, an emergency room physician assistant, gather (l-r) around a computer in an emergency bay to have a look at MHS GENESIS, the DoD’s new electronic health record, at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., on Sept. 23, during their training tour away from their Air Force Reserve unit the 116th Medical Group out of Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. (Photo Credit: Kirstin Grace-Simons) VIEW ORIGINAL

MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. – The medical departments of the service branches are coming together under the Defense Health Agency. Joint operations have occurred for some time, though. Madigan Army Medical Center’s recent onsite support of the training tour of the 116th Medical Group out of Robins Air Force Base in Georgia is one example.

In September, 18 Reservists in total, or about 20 percent of the unit, traveled to Madigan to partake in this training across different sections and specialties.

Madigan’s Logistics Division got word that it had been chosen to support the Reservists in their medical supply management and clinical engineering training.

“We've been doing this MSR, which is a medical skills readiness training. We do it with our sister units over there at 62nd Med Brigade. We've been doing it for over two years, from what I understand this is the first time we've ever done it with the Air Force,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jojo Ada, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge for Logistics.

This training support has been a fairly constant rotation where two to six Soldiers each quarter spend 60 to 90 days learning how to support a large medical facility and attaining day-to-day experience.

Since Reserve units and the 62nd do not have a facility they support, they don’t have the same opportunity to develop familiarity with logistical support that those operating day-to-day at Madigan do.

In the planning phase of this training both Ada and John Donaho, the chief of Logistics, expected this experience to be worthwhile.

“They'll learn all the ins and outs of running a warehouse operation and the support of a hospital,” said Ada. “Wherever they go, they should be prepared to provide logistical support.”

In a deployed situation service members can find themselves working alongside members of any branch. Spending time training together puts them on the same page before that situation occurs. Supporting all forms of training is old hat for Madigan.

“My philosophy was Madigan is a training hospital, so we should train too in Logistics,” added Donaho. “Coming over here, then they can actually see how the supply chain management actually works.”

Master Sgt. Sandra Byrd is not assigned to a role in logistics, she is in health services administration. But, the Airman she supervises, Staff Sgt. Molly Schaff, is a logistics technician.

Byrd came along to increase her insight into her subordinate’s work.

“She is the one that really is benefitting from the training, which has been phenomenal,” said Byrd. “We learned so much, although this is not my AFSC (air force specialty code), I’ve learned a whole lot since I’ve been shadowing the Madigan team and their Logistics section, and I have to say, I have enjoyed the training because we couldn’t have gotten this in our home station.”

In the warehouse, Byrd was a clear asset, just as Schaff was. Both were informed they might be kept on staff at Madigan because of their aptitude. While claiming another unit’s staff was said in jest, their help was appreciated.

The benefits of this training are mutual. Many sections are low on staffing, making extra hands useful. The Logistics section considers this a win-win. Other areas are just as happy to teach and mentor while they benefit from having the Reservist professionals in their midst.

Byrd was not the only Airman eager to jump in and develop some hands-on skills. Reservists are tapped for active duty deployment with the expectation that they will be competent on day one. But, they have far less time to develop that competency than those who do these tasks on a daily basis.

“We do two weeks of training to get our category one and category two training accomplished for readiness because we don’t do this on a daily basis; we come here, we get it and then we’re more ready to deploy,” said Chief Master Sgt. Frank Bulin, the medical group’s senior enlisted leader who was shepherding the contingent from the 116th.

The crash course these Airmen receive on ground at Madigan is not a matter of skills introduction, but one of deepening. To watch them work it is obvious they are talented professionals. In a large facility like Madigan, they get the opportunity to have interactions that are different from their everyday encounters in their civilian lives.

“My civilian job- I do cancer medicine, cancer surgery. So, obviously, this provides me a little more in-depth training and experience because definitely we are tasked to deploy downrange as PAs, we’re asked to be knowledgeable in all types of medicine – urgent care, emergency types of medicine – and not cancer medicine, that’s not going to be my tasking downrange,” noted Maj. Colby Suttles, an emergency room physician assistant. “We use these kinds of opportunities to gain the hands-on experience to keep our skill sets up so that when we are tasked to go on an active duty assignment that we have a general, broad knowledge of medicine, not only what we do in the civilian side.”

Suttles and Maj. Rolando de Luna, also an emergency room physician assistant, both pointed out their appreciation for the ability to spend time within a military medical setting to absorb the particular aspects of working in a military facility versus a civilian one.

Of particular note for de Luna was getting a chance to work with MHS GENESIS, the DoD’s new electronic health record.

“It’s going to be the future and that’s definitely been a help to see it in action,” said de Luna.

Aided by some fairly slow days in the ER, Master Sgt. Charles Kinney, a medical technician which is akin to a licensed practical nurse, has appreciated the face time he’s had with providers.

It has been, “A little bit easier to get more one-on-one time with providers to assist with showing us more detailed stuff. We had an ultrasound doc in here yesterday who was very knowledgeable and showed us every different way imaginable to view a heart through an ultrasound,” he said.

Tech Sgt. Jessica Jimenez, also a medical technician, agreed with sentiments and a list of duties offered by Kinney.

Asked what she appreciated about her time in the ER at Madigan, Jimenez said, “To brush up on your skills as well- assisting with EKGs, drawing labs, etc.”

One aspect Kinney noted that was beneficial to see at Madigan that is lacking in his regular Reserve duties is working with a diverse patient population. Madigan has a large retiree population, offering an opportunity for military providers to develop aptitude with bodies that are older than the typical service member’s. That informs a care provider of how the body changes as it ages.

As military medicine comes under the DHA umbrella, members of the various branches are expected to work and train together more. Madigan and the 116th Medical Group are developing a relationship for excellent collaboration.

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