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    Battle Creek airmen positively impact Puerto Rico communities through Innovative Readiness Training

    Innovative Readiness Training positively impacts airmen and communities

    Photo By Staff Sgt. Bethany Rizor | Lt Col. James Rosbolt, 110th Medical Group physician assisted by Yaritza Robles Velez,...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Bethany Rizor 

    110th Wing

    CATANO, Puerto Rico – From Aug. 28 – Sept 11, 2018, a team of 15 airmen from the 110th Attack Wing, Battle Creek Michigan participated in an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) opportunity, using their skillsets to assist communities in Puerto Rico.

    As National Guard members, training is the most important mission. With only two days a month to perfect their military vocational skills, it is sometimes difficult for guardsman to squeeze in required training with the rest of their responsibilities.

    IRT is the answer to bridging the gap between the mission trained airmen and community’s needs.

    The IRT program offers service opportunities to Active, Guard, and Reserve Service Members, as well as multinational partners. It was started when President Bill Clinton urged the DoD to explore opportunities where realistic military training could benefit our communities.

    For their most recent IRT mission, the 110th Medical Group flew to Puerto Rico, a small island in the Caribbean, approximately 3500 sq. miles, less than a 1/3 the size of Michigan. Over a year ago Puerto Rico was totally engulfed by Hurricane Maria for more than 30 hours.

    The country’s population resides mostly near the coastline, with a heavier population near San Juan. The devastation that has become part of Puerto Rico’s everyday life still needs dedicated attention.

    Twenty-two Air National Guard bases and 8 Navy bases organized a full-scale medical team to help meet the needs of the communities still hurting. This effort is complex from the planning phase to the return home. Four locations were designated to house medical care sites: Yabucao, Humacao, Guaynabo, and Cataño. An advanced planning team worked with the local government to strategically choose the locations in those areas. Local law enforcement agencies, churches, community centers, and businesses opened their buildings to support the entire Innovative Readiness Training team deployed to the area.

    Cataño, one of the four care sites, is located across the bay from Old San Juan. Its foundation was built above a swamp, not ideal to support the homes and businesses during a hurricane such as Maria.
    Much of the community areas were under water during and after the hurricane and have suffered structural damage that presented challenges in the start of the mission.
    Capt. Jon Stein, 110th Medical Administration Officer, was the officer in charge at the Cataño care site. According to Lt. Shawna DioGiovanni, assistant officer in charge at the Cataño care site, she and Stein were able to guide the care site staff through the obstacles that came their way.

    “Capt. Stein and I bounced solutions back and forth, and he handled the challenges we faced with professionalism and a positive attitude,” said DioGiovanni “I’m happy to support him and assist in any way.”
    The care site personnel team was comprised with self-sustainment mission essentials in mind. Not only were there doctors, dentists, and optometrists, but it was vital to include administrative personnel, public health, and services personnel. The care site was housed at a local community center, which had minimal space and equipment useful to the everyday rhythm.

    Master Sgt. Joseph Tabor, 163rd Medical Group Bioenvironmental engineer analyzed the site for any health threats that would potentially halt the mission. His team performed food sanitation inspections, and water quality testing, as well as assessing the area for possible health risks to the IRT personnel.

    “We minimize health risk by preventing food borne illness and water contamination, and maintaining proper hygiene practices” said Tabor.
    The services team was among the first to get working to feed the entire care site. Logistical discrepancies such as lack of cooking utensils and working equipment made their job slightly difficult. Minimal transportation made getting the proper supplies to the Cataño location an issue.

    “I understand more about the importance of site surveying,” said Tech Sgt. Jennifer Miszewski, 110th Attack Wing Services specialist. “There are small things we tend to forget about that highly impact the success of our mission in services. It really makes us utilize every person’s strengths in a positive way.”

    Every morning the medical team set up their stations for care under a community pavilion, and every evening they would tear down. The numbers do not matter to the medical team. Their heart is with the patients and the care they are providing for them in this time of need.

    “I’ve seen patients from infant to elderly, all with a unique situation. In most cases the residents have to wait long periods of time to see their primary care provider,” said Lt. Col. James Rosbolt 110th Medical Group physician.
    Puerto Rico’s Administración de Servicios de Salud y Contra la Adicción (ASSMCA) was an integral part of the planning and execution of the IRT mission. The team set up their own section with at the care sites to assist further with mental health within the community. The resources they brought to the mission were imperative to the success beyond the IRT’s imprint.

    “Social conditions have a huge impact on the overall health evaluation of this community. There is a consistent sense of depression and high anxiety within the patients I am seeing. I find it rewarding to bring them hope and restore their faith in health care” says Rosbolt.

    For many airmen, it was their first time using their skills in a real-world environment. The Cataño team took each day’s challenges with a grain of salt, overcame, and executed a successful mission. Everyone expressed their gratitude to be able to be a part of this mission, which locals referred to as the “Healing Wave of Hope,” and learned lessons they could apply in future missions. Understanding the impact of their presence enables airmen to assist in a way they never thought possible.

    Miszewski suggested that while an airman’s sense of purpose can become clouded by the mundane monthly training, clarity can be found by training in a real world environment.

    “It is an honor to be able to help them in a time of serious need," she said. "This trip has energized me about my career field. Despite long hours and conditions, a great team can make the best of any situation.”

    The IRT program proves that America has made an investment in developing the skills, capabilities, and resources of its Armed Forces. These resources, when appropriately matched to local necessities and with assistance of civilian organizations, can make a valuable contribution to solving domestic needs of the United States.



    Date Taken: 10.09.2018
    Date Posted: 10.09.2018 16:09
    Story ID: 295759
    Location: CATAñO, PR

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