News: Air National Guard medical staff return to AL, help Selma residents
Story by Melissa Chatham
SELMA, Ala. – The Air National Guard and other service members return here Monday to provide free health care to Alabama residents during an Innovative Readiness Training mission Alabama Care 2012, Aug. 7-13.
Alabama Care 2012 is an ANG led IRT multiservice mission comprised of active duty, reserve, and National Guard members from Army, Navy and Air Force components focusing on deployment and readiness training in a joint-service environment while simultaneously providing free medical, dental, ophthalmology services to the community.
Alabama Care provided medical assistance to more than 30,000 Alabama residents in May, but the medical demands of the community were so great that the IRT mission returned to Selma. They are expected to assist more than 10,000 residents this week who are in need of medical services.
“This is a great opportunity for military members to receive hands-on training in their primary career fields that they would not ordinarily receive during their annual training days,” said Lt. Col. Michael Shiels, IRT program manager.
ANG members perform in a multiservice environment conducting real-world readiness and medical training and preparing for wartime missions while supporting the needs of America's underserved communities like Selma.
“I went to a [Joint Base San Antonio - Fort Sam Houston, Texas] technical school, which was a multiservice training environment so this is just like that,” said Airman 1st Class Nicole Holland, 141st Medical Group, Washington Air National Guard, Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. “It’s great because you can become more proficient by learning from other branches.”
The IRT goal is for military members to focus on training their junior enlisted, allowing them to gain knowledge and enhance their skills in a deployed environment. IRT missions provide an opportunity to train within service member’s primary job while working with real patients and special equipment, while assisting communities with free medical care.
“We have put the junior enlisted in charge and allowed the senior leaders to mentor while in a training environment allowing them a chance to grow, make decisions, and mistakes that they can learn from,” Shiels said.
“This is a great environment to learn to lead because you have to be flexible and think on your feet,” said Holland. “It has been encouraging to see junior enlisted in charge, expanding their leadership skills. It motivates me to become [a noncommissioned officer], having confidence to step up and organize processes on IRT missions.”
Incidental to military readiness training, Alabama Care 2012 provides medical, dental, and optometric care to assist local health and municipal authorities in addressing underserved residents in the community while increasing the quality of life.
“People here are so grateful for everything that we are doing. It really shows the community a different side to the military; that we are here to serve our country community,” Holland said.