By Lance Cpl. Niles Lee, Marine Corps Forces Reserves
NEW ORLEANS, LA -- Sailors with 4th Marine Logistics Group and Expeditionary Medical Facility Camp Pendleton came together in support of Innovative Readiness Training Louisiana Care 2017, alongside members of the Air National Guard, to provide medical support to local communities in the Saint John the Baptist Parish, Tangipahoa Parish and Assumption Parish in Louisiana, July 10-24, 2017.
IRT Louisiana Care 2017 is providing Louisiana communities with medical, dental and optometry care at no cost to patients, while also providing service members the opportunity to work with other branches in a domestically deployed environment to prepare them for future deployments or mobilizations.
“This is a great opportunity for my children to get the care they need,” said Jackie Wilson, a patient attending Louisiana Care 2017. “I have insurance but I can’t afford it for them. Now my daughter can get the glasses she needs and my son can also get his teeth checked.”
Service members gained support from the community by putting their medical training to use and helping locals who wouldn’t have been able to afford such medical treatment.
“When people first see a service member, their first thought is war,” said Conley J. Samuel, an Army veteran and native of Louisiana. “They’re not only about that. They’re also about helping the community.”
IRT’s were established to help communities that the Department of Defense has identified as underserved or in need, providing engineering, veterinarian, construction or medical support. Louisiana Care 2017 supplemented current medical issues within the community, but also provided a venue for patients to meet local medical agencies to provide follow on care in case of future needs.
“We look for local programs that the community might not have known about so that they can get that follow-on care they need when the military leaves,” said Brittney Lindberg, the IRT program manager and military liaison for Delta Regional Authority. “So patients don’t feel left to the wolves when the IRT concludes, and building a strong bond within the community where they’re able to take care of each other.”
In addition to helping the community, IRT’s also provide a realistic training environment for service members to operate in.
“IRT’s are important because they fill a critical role in the community by doing humanitarian type missions, and really taking care of people who need assistance,” said Col. Christopher Snyder, the chief of staff for 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve. “This also gives medical staff different opportunities away from their home unit or on exercises.”
With medical personnel divided between three locations and multiple units, staff members have to plan the distribution of their personnel and identify the logistical requirements of getting medical supplies to each location.
“This is a joint mission,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Beverley Simpson, the mission officer in charge of IRT Louisiana Care 2017. “Together we are performing all the training and logistical movements we need to prepare us for a deployment.”
Similar to being deployed, medical staff are able to participate in additional training outside of the baseline requirements. Operating in a new environment away from their home unit offers new experiences and challenges for service members to adapt to.
With limited training opportunities available for medically focused missions, 4th Dental Battalion, a reserve unit from MARFORRES, was able to capitalize by integrating with EMF Camp Pendleton, a Navy active duty unit, and various individual augments from the Air National Guard to provide all dental services.
“This is a really good training opportunity for the Corpsmen,” said Snyder. “While they get to do some training in their home state, this allows them to go to different parts of America or different countries with different units.”
As IRT Louisiana Care comes to an end, service members are continuing to accomplish mission essential training requirements while strengthening their ability to coordinate with civilian and government agencies.
“It’s so great to have service members out here helping the community,” said Wilson. “It really shows how well they can work together on and off the field, and in the communities.”
In the first week of IRT Louisiana Care 2017, service members have seen approximately 2,200 patients and contributed approximately 576,499 dollars worth of services to the community while accomplishing over 8,600 training hours.