New York Air Guard medical personnel get hands on training at California health clinic

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jocelyn Tuller
  • 109th Airlift Wing

 Seventeen Air National Guard Airmen from New York’s 109th Airlift Wing, spent June 12 to 25 providing no-cost health care and veterinary services at the Round Valley Indian Health Clinic in Covelo California.

The Airmen, from Strattion Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York, were participating in a Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Mission, know as IRT for short.
IRT missions are designed to allow military personnel to practice their military skills while helping their fellow Americans. They can involve engineering missions, assisting local governments with cyber security, or providing medical care, as in this case.

Seventy service members from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps reserves were also part of the mission.
The two-week mission provided 2,457 hours of hands-on training in medical, dental and veterinary specialties for military personnel while assisting the Round Valley Indian Health Clinic.

The Round Valley Indian Health Center serves 3,000 people living in the village of Covelo and the and the Round Valley Indian Reservation. The village of Covelo has a population of just over 1,300 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with a median family income of $31,000.

Over 500 patients were seen during the mission. The medical clinic saw 200 patients, the dental clinic saw 214 patients and the veterinary clinic saw 133 patients.
The market value of services provided was over 150,000 dollars, according to the mission commander.

“It was an amazing opportunity to provide health care at no cost to communities that welcome us while also getting mission essential training,” said Capt. David Falcon, the officer in charge of the 109th Airlift Wing members.

Navy Commander Jordan Buzzell, the officer in charge of the Navy Reserve’s 4th Dental Battalion, said the mission worked so well because the clinic provided the needed equipment.

“This created a unique situation for this IRT mission because we did not have to bring any equipment, which enabled us to hit the ground running instantly to provide immediate patient care,” Buzzell said.

The medical personnel were also given the chance to work at the veterinary clinic in shifts to get firsthand experience working in that field as well.

“I had the opportunity to work with animals in the medical field, which was an eye-opening experience I would usually never be able to do in my regular profession,” said Master Sgt. Jessica Corrigan, a critical care specialist.

Rose Abono, the medical clinic manager, said the community appreciated the service provided and that many of the people that participated had not been to the doctor in years.

“Covelo is a very rural community located an hour’s drive from the nearest hospital or other medical care,” Abono said. “We applied for the U.S. Military to come assist with medical, dental, and veterinary services because our community is so rural there is a huge lack of employment, high poverty level and uninsured families. The community was very grateful for all the services."