Military members gain vital training, benefit local community

  • Published
  • By Airman Cameron R. Lewis
  • 115th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Innovative Readiness Training provides a platform for military service members to conduct realistic training in a joint environment, while providing services with lasting benefits to American communities.

In an effort to produce mission-ready forces and provide key health care services over 100 reserve Airmen, Sailors and Soldiers have come to Thomasville and Monroeville May 28 to June 4, as part of an IRT that provides no-cost health care to the citizens of southern Alabama.

Consisting of mostly reserve forces, the IRT goes to the heart of being a civilian Soldier, Airmen or Sailor.

“To be able to put our civilian job aside to come and take care of folks who are in need, while also having the ability to train and prepare for both domestic and foreign deployments is something that doesn’t always happen,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chambers, a physician assistant with the 187th Fighter Wing, Ala.

While this mission was a huge success, none of this would have been possible without the civilian and military partnership between the local community and civic leaders, school authorities, volunteers, and the Delta Regional Authority.

“Many of the men, women and children here have never seen, or even interacted with someone in uniform before,” said  Michael Mills, the DRA regional development officer for Alabama. “The IRT mission is a way to build lasting civilian military relationships and redefine the perception of the military.”

The clinics established in Thomasville High School and Monroeville County High School saw approximately 3,500 patient encounters, with approximately 450 medical encounters, 480 optical encounters, 700 dental encounters, and 800 public health encounters, said U.S. Navy LT. Ike Akanu, the mission assistant officer in charge and Navy OIC for Expeditionary Medical Facility Dallas Detachment J.

“Words cannot express how much this IRT meant to our region,” said  Sheldon A. Day, the mayor of Thomasville. “The services and procedures that were provided were life changing.”

This mission helped a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford these types of services, said Sharon Bailey, a patient from Frisco City, Alabama.

“It’s all about the quality of life,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Amnee L. Roberson, the NCO in charge of medical readiness with the 75th Combat Support Hospital. “It’s comforting when something as simple as prescribing a pair of glasses or extracting a tooth can mean the world to someone.”

While the IRT saved community members roughly $600,000, there is no dollar sign that can convey the overall impact this mission has made on the community, said Mills.

 “We know when you leave, you’re leaving a piece of yourselves here,” said Day. “The services you performed will live on in the community and with the residents that utilized them and for that we’ll be forever grateful.”