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    Greater Chenango Cares IRT provides medical care to nearly 2,500 patients in NY

    Army Reserve medic provides support during Greater Chenango Cares IRT

    Photo By Sgt. Jennifer Shick | Spc. Cora Howard, a medic with Company A, 48th Combat Support Hospital, listens to a...... read more read more



    Story by Capt. Charles An 

    3rd Medical Command Deployment Support

    NORWICH, New York – The combined high school and middle school were without students for the summer, but hundreds filled the combined school for the past ten days. The school had about 170 military uniformed personnel and nearly 2,500 members of the Greater Chenango County and surrounding communities walk through the hallways.

    The military service members were here as part of the Greater Chenango Cares IRT, which was one of the Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) exercises ran by the Department of Defense. The IRT provides real world training opportunities for the service members to prepare for their wartime missions while supporting the needs of America’s underserved communities, and this year the IRT served the communities of Chenango County.

    Greater Chenango Cares provided medical, dental, optometry and veterinary care since July 13, 2015 and ended July 22, 2015.

    Service members consisted of the Army Reserve and Navy Reserve as well as a number of active duty service members from the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. They traveled from as far as Maine, Virginia, California and even Puerto Rico arriving in Norwich in order to provide the various medical services mentioned.

    “The role of the 48th CSH was to provide mission command and operational and clinical support to the IRT mission,” said Capt. Jonathan Etienne, commander of Company A, 48th Combat Support Hospital out of Fort Story, Va. “We were the main unit for the mission we were to provide the oversight as well as the bulk of the personnel and the equipment used for the mission.”

    “I have clinical experience and this is good because at NOSTRA you don’t get clinical experience,” said Seaman Jessica Travieso, an optometry technician from the Naval Ophthalmic Support & Training Activity.

    When a community member arrives they first get their vitals taken, get their height and weight measured, and asked for any current medication they are taking before going on to any other services. This allows the medical service members to screen potential patients in case they are not in any kind of condition to receive other services or allow the medical providers to be aware of any conditions the patients are in before receiving them.

    Patients had the opportunity to visit with a physician, but a patient received a variety of other services as well. This included talking to a nutritionist to discuss a healthier eating lifestyle, or visiting with a physical therapist. While waiting on providers, patients also received classes on ergonomic practices such as how to lift with their legs and sitting with a better posture while sitting down.

    Those who needed to receive dental care had an opportunity to call and set appointments prior to the start of Greater Chenango Cares. Dental patients received a check-up, and with time permitting, could get either a clean-up or even have extractions as needed.

    One of those patients who came in for dental was James LeMoine. “I came in for cleaning, and hopefully get my front tooth filled,” said LeMoine, which the dental services at Greater Chenango Cares was able to do. “I just appreciate everything they did for me,” LeMoine added.

    “I’ve heard all these stories about people,” expressed Donna Jones on the patients who came to Greater Chenango Cares to be seen. “The woman who hadn’t seen for twenty years, and these people who probably haven’t been to a dentist.” Jones is the Chenango County planning director and was the lead municipal officer for the IRT.

    As Jones mentioned, there had been patients who had their eyes checked and received a set of glasses for the first time. The people of the Greater Chenango County had an opportunity to not only have their eyes checked, but could take their prescriptions to have their glasses fabricated at the school grounds and ready for pick up the following day. The fabrication of glasses was made possible by NOSTRA who sent six active duty sailors from their duty station in Yorktown, Va.

    Andrew Cummings said, “I went to Optometry. Today I have a dental appointment.” Cummings came and received his glasses after his wife was volunteering at the IRT.

    For any patients needing medication there was even a pharmacy setup with full over-the-counter medications. The service members consisted of personnel who work in pharmacies in their civilian jobs.

    The fastest appointments that were filled prior to Greater Chenango Cares even started were spays and neuters for pets. Pet owners took advantage of the opportunity to have their pet dogs or cats spayed or neutered. The veterinary services saw a total of 199 surgeries the entire time they were in Norwich. Veterinary care also provided rabies shots as well as other vaccinations, and later added deworming to their list of services.

    The overall IRT mission saw 2,461 patients seen receiving a total of 15,288 different procedures at Greater Chenango Cares totaling an estimated saved cost of $1,377,970.

    The IRT not only allowed the service members to serve the citizens of Chenango County, but allowed the two services to work in joint environment. In the past years the military as a whole has conducted a lot of missions and exercises in jointly and this exercise allowed a number of soldiers and sailors to work side by side for the first time. Some have never worked with anyone outside of their branch prior to Greater Chenango Cares.

    “I knew that there was going to be several challenges working with the Army, this is the first one I’ve done it with the Army,” said Chief Petty Officer Kim Bosser, senior enlisted leader for the Navy medicine support team. “We started to mesh together and we worked fine.”

    “We were able to provide incredible team building,” said Maj. Bill Keeney, officer in charge of Greater Chenango Cares.

    The service members could not have been able to plan and coordinate Greater Chenango Cares without the partnership with civilian help. In fact, the IRT would not have taken place in Norwich had it not been for civilian partnership on many different levels to reach out to the military to initiate the application for the IRT at the Office of the Assistant Secretary Defense.

    The process started when Caroline Quidort regional development analyst from the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board to submitted the application to OASD for the IRT in 2013.

    “We were informed we were selected,” said Quidort. “Then we started having conversations about potential dates, times and services.”

    Planning efforts also included Donna Jones, Shane Butler, IRT Planning Section Chief, Rena Doing, IRT Public Information Officer, and Elizabeth Monaco, volunteer coordinator from Chenango United Way, along with countless others. The Chenango United Way was able to get over 800 volunteers to support the mission with their own time as well.

    “We really needed to understand what the needs were in Chenango, and that was a phenomenal aspect of it as we got to know why they put in their application in the first place,” said Keeney.

    Commander Michael Luttrell said, “We are so different in many ways with the civilian governance in planning and executing. One of the takeaways is just how amazing it really can be when you join forces with civilians.”

    Luttrell was the officer in charge of the Navy medicine support team.

    Many of the community members offered thanks to the service members.

    “I want everyone to know that they’re very much appreciated in our community,” echoed Carol Nassar. “That what they’ve done is wonderful to see something come back to the people who are in the community.”

    Nassar followed with, “You feel as though if you belong here and you’re welcome here anytime you want to come.”



    Date Taken: 07.22.2015
    Date Posted: 07.22.2015 22:56
    Story ID: 170818
    Location: NORWICH, NY, US 
    Hometown: NORWICH, NY, US

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