ATLANTA - If you want to fight, you have to be fit to fight and it takes constant attention to keep 11,000 Army National Guardsmen’s medical readiness above 90 percent ready to deploy. The Georgia Army National Guard is a national leader in medical and dental readiness, achieving an all time high medical readiness of 93 percent in fiscal year 2013.
"We are here to make every citizen soldier an asset to the National Guard by making them medically ready to deploy." said Staff Sgt. Kevin Caple, clinic noncommissioned officer in charge.
Every Thursday, the Georgia ARNG Medical Command opens its doors at the Oglethorpe Armory in Ellenwood, Ga., to citizen soldiers and recruits who need physicals.
“Guardsmen come in for a variety of physicals,” said Caple. “We complete in-processing physicals and school physicals ranging from HALO [high altitude low opening], ranger, flight, and even diver physicals in addition to completing pre-deployment physicals associated with the SRP [soldier readiness program].”
Guardsmen begin their physicals by completing a periodic health assessment, then go through a variety of stations based on their needs. The physical includes many preventative diagnostic stations such as: vital signs, vision screening, a hearing booth, EKG (electrocardiogram), dental, laboratory and an immunizations station. Finally, guardsmen will finish their physicals by seeing a physician that interprets the results of the diagnostic stations and provides a recommendation to the individual and their unit commander concerning the health of the service member.
“This process is all about prevention,” said Maj. Jeremiah Laxson, Ga. ARNG MEDCOM commander. “The main goal is to find issues, fix them and return a fully ready guardsman back to duty.”
The National Guard knows that a citizen soldier’s health is not only measured in terms of their physical health, but a holistic look at the individual includes an assessment of their behavior health.
“Our assessment has a behavior health section that allows service members a place to identify typical symptoms of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder], depression or other Behavior Health issues,” said Laxson. “Once identified, these service members are provided on site Behavioral Health services by our Directors of Psychological Health and if needed they can be referred to a chaplain, behavioral health case manager, behavioral health officer, or civilian behavioral health provider. I know of many service members who have worked through temporary symptoms and returned back to service a fully ready guardsman."
“We make sure guardsmen are ready mentally and physically,” said Caple. “It gives them a day besides their weekend drill to take care of their medical needs.”
“This program helps guardsmen,” said Laxson. “We identify issues here that may need long term care and get the process rolling to move guardsmen into programs like the WTU [warrior transition unit] for the care they need.”