COLUMBUS, Ga. – Virginia and Massachusetts National Guard Soldiers and Airmen supported a no-cost health clinic offering vision, dental and other basic medical services Aug. 3-18 in the Columbus, Georgia, area.
The clinic was part of the Department of Defense-funded Innovative Readiness Training program, serving the local community and training military personnel to increase readiness.
More than 2,700 patients received care at four sites in Georgia and Alabama. Medical professionals performed almost 12,000 procedures and fabricated and distributed more than 1,000 pairs of eyeglasses. The fair market value of services was more than $1.2 million.
“We feel incredibly proud to be serving this community, and the benefit for the unit has been tremendous in terms of what we bring back to the commonwealth,” said Maj. Robert Hart, commander of the VNG’s Charlie Company, 429th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “In addition to real-world training in their specific duty functions, our Soldiers were able to work in a joint environment they would not normally take part in. It really is a great opportunity for our Soldiers to understand everything from the capabilities of our joint service counterparts or where some of the shortfalls might be where we could fill the gaps.”
Hart said for the first time, Charlie Company will bring back instructors validated to teach tactical combat casualty care to other Virginia Army and Air National Guard medical personnel. More than 80 personnel completed the training and became certified to conduct the instruction with their home station units.
Army medics assigned to Charlie Company helped in-process patients and performed initial health checks. Providers, including a doctor, dentist, physician assistant, physical therapists and nurses, worked directly with patients.
Hart said Charlie Company Soldiers often say they would like more experience with actual patients, so supporting the clinic helped provide that experience.
More than 160 personnel from different uniformed services supported the event, with the Massachusetts National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing serving as the lead mission command element. VNG Soldiers and Airmen from multiple states, active duty and reserve U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, as well as U.S. Public Health Service personnel, supported the clinic.
“The benefit of the joint environment is a shared language and shared training standard across the service components,” Hart said. “The standardization is really important.”
Hart said each service has different challenges and approaches to caring for patients. In the TCCC training environment, they have a common framework to share those experiences and improve their ability to respond.
Spc. Vanessa Lee, a combat medic assigned to Charlie Company, said she learned new approaches to patient care.
“They make you feel very proud to be doing what you are doing and helping their community,” Lee said.
Lt. Col. Raymond Martin, the officer in charge of the mission and a dentist assigned to the Cape Cod, Massachusetts-based 102nd Medical Group, 102nd Intelligence Wing, said the overreaching goals were to provide training and medical care for fellow Americans.
The clinic used field equipment similar to what service members would see in a deployed environment, Martin said.
“I feel like we accomplished a ton of training,” Martin said. “Our forces are better prepared for combat casualty and trauma care.”