YELLVILLE, Ark. -- Approximately 50 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 7457th Medical Operational Readiness Unit (MORU), Richmond, Virginia; the 7218th Medical Support Unit (MSU); Louisville, Kentucky; the 7221st MSU, Newark, Delaware; the 7356th Veterinary Detachment (VD), Louisville, Kentucky; and the 7361st VD, North Chesterfield, Virginia; and other Army Reserve augmentees took part in a real-world joint medical mission in support of Innovative Readiness Training - Northwest Arkansas Wellness here, July 10-19, 2023. The abovementioned Army Reserve units had been working in tandem with over 130 Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, and active-duty Army and Navy service members to provide no-cost medical coverage to the destitute Arkansas communities of Yellville, Mountain Home, and Marshall.
The joint military medical task force is part of the coalition with the Delta Regional Authority and the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District.
"The NWAR Wellness IRT mission began back in early December 2022, when my unit was identified to participate in this exercise," said U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Jason Williams of the 7457th MORU and the Yellville/Summit High School site officer-in-charge for the NWAR Wellness IRT mission. "The (Advanced Echelon) staff arrived here on the 5th of July and started setting up operations. Main body staff then arrived on the 8th of July; (and then) concluded setup, polished and shined and ready to see patients in the afternoon of the 10th of July."
The joint medical task force sustained a steady flow of operations to efficiently manage the voluminous input and output of patients.
"Since then, we've been seeing an average of 120 to 130 patients, most of whom were dental patients," Williams said. "On average, we're seeing an average of 90 to 95 extractions a day, and an average of 20 to 25 fillings a day. For optometry, we're providing an approximate number of eight to nine pairs of glasses a day. For medical services, the doctors are seeing an average of 25 to 30 patients, our behavioral health component is seeing an average of 15 to 20 patients a day... as well as our dietary services, as they are seeing an average of eight to 12 patients a day."
"We also have veterinarian services here to provide spay and neutering services, as well as vaccinations to our local four-legged and furry friends," Williams said.
The unity of effort has also been conducive as a collective training opportunity for medical service members to learn and grow from one another.
"This is a great event, as the IRT allows us to do joint service work," said Iowa Air National Guard Senior Master Sgt. Tina Kalar, First Sergeant of the 132nd Medical Group, Des Moines, Iowa. "Although we have Army medics, we also have Air Force medics (and Navy Corpsmen). So with them working together, they can share their own experiences, different ways that they were trained and their own processes."
Moreover, the NWAR Wellness IRT mission presented tough, realistic training for Army Reserve medical Soldiers and strengthening camaraderie and esprit de corps.
"Being able to come out here and practice our skill sets in our specialty care arenas is very beneficial to us, as I walk around and talk to our service members," Williams said. "They're very appreciative that we are not just out here simulating activities; they're very appreciative having the partnership with each other and senior advisors such as myself and other senior noncommissioned officers and officers to provide that guidance and mentorship, and that expertise to help teach and guide them."
Despite the relatively short duration of the mission, it has tremendously impacted the Yellville/Mountain Home/Marshall communities in providing long-overdue medical services and aftercare support.
"Some of these folks have told us that their issue they were coming in for has been going on for more than a year," Kalar said. "Some of them have not seen a doctor in over 10 years. And although they may have just had four or five teeth pulled, they're in very good spirits and very thankful for the work that we can do so they are no longer suffering from a medical issue."
Overall, the partnership between military and civilian entities have built a foundation of trust and interdependence.
"During this IRT mission, we've developed many personal and professional relationships with our community partners," Williams said. "But also with our partners, we have developed bridges to be able to work together to get assistance to our patients, some of which who never realized that these services existed in their own community. So we have built that bridge to establish that partnership, and to have an ongoing continuity of care in our patient population, demographical area and region."