MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --
Twenty-eight members of the 167th Medical Group partnered with 24 members of the 101st Medical Group for an Innovative Readiness Training event at the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota last July.
IRT’s, sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Reserve Affairs, build mutually beneficial civil-military partnerships, providing training and readiness opportunities for military members while addressing public and civil needs such as health care and infrastructure.
Maj. Dona Chewning, the 167th Medical Group’s officer in charge of the IRT, recently finalized and shared her after action report, recalling the challenges and the highlights of the two-week event.
The initial plan called for participants to provide services at the Indian Health Services hospital in Belcourt, N.D.
“With 52 IRT participants, we quickly realized we would overrun the IHS work centers. That coupled with the low IHS census drove us to expand our outreach out into the community,” said Chewning.
IRT participants saw 120 patients in various medical settings including the laboratory, an outpatient clinic and the emergency room.
“I think that the fact that things at the hospital didn't go according to plan was rather beneficial to the group. We got to work in the community and I think it had a very positive impact on a lot of us,” said Airman David Orr, an IRT participant and a dental assistant technician for the 167th Medical Group.
Bioenvironmental and public health technicians worked beside their Indian Health Services counterparts to conduct facility inspections and surveys in the community.
Master Sgt. Marty Snider, a public health technician for the 167th MDG said they inspected a retirement home and a prison, surveyed the local fitness center, and performed waste lagoon inspections which entailed looking at algae plumes, water flow and erosion.
“We spent a solid week, at least fifty-percent of our time, conducting the inspections with the Indian Health Services. We also worked with the Tribal Council on some community service projects,” Snider said.
The Chippewa Tribe that calls Turtle Mountain home was preparing for their annual community celebration, Turtle Mountain Days, during the same time the medical group was there. The IRT participants engaged with the community and assisted with the event.
Chewning said the 167th’s group helped with a teen street dance, two parades, a mini pow-wow, Special Olympics and Elders Day activities. They spent several days at a local lake providing general maintenance and they helped build a pavilion.
“The 167th formed a working group to brainstorm how we could incorporate health and fitness into Kid’s Day,” Chewning said. “The committee proposed an obstacle course with various fitness challenges. The event even included a station which taught the kids how to deliver proper chest compressions for CPR.”
Senior Airman Austin McKinney, a medical service technician, credited the 167th’s IRT leadership for the event’s success.
“Without them we never would have been able to get out in the community and make the huge impact on Turtle Mountain that we did. For many of us it was the first time that we've actually been out in the community doing work like that and it was an amazing experience,” McKinney said.
Chewning said that the young airman learned key skills in community building and lived and worked seamlessly with the residents of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation.
“We learned that when you deploy sometimes the mission does not go as expected or planned. In these instances, we are challenged to re-evaluate our purpose and determine what each of us could do to contribute to the community,” Chewning said.