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Medical group balances joint medical training with real-world medical care

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Lou Burton
  • 178th Wing

Television, movies and Instagram pictures usually depict the Islands of Hawaii as a tropical paradise with ideal weather and crystal blue coastlines. While those images are accurate, it is only a partial snapshot of an island chain that hosts 11 different ecosystems.

For 33 members from the 178th Wing Medical Group and the 121st Air Refueling Wing Medical Group, the tropical image of Hawaii was replaced with a barren, rocky terrain when they ascended over 6,800 feet above sea level to participate in joint medical training at the U.S. Army Garrison Pohakuloa Training Area, June 10-23.

The group was comprised of various specialties engaged in providing real-world medical assistance, bioenvironmental and public health services, and joint services medical training.

Medical Assistance:

The 132,800 acre PTA hosts over 2,000 military members and comprises 23 training areas, with 22 live-fire and four non live-fire fixed ranges, seven airborne drop zones and over 100 field artillery and mortar firing points.

The PTA employs almost 200 civilian and military personnel, but no permanent medical staff for the thousands of Soldiers temporarily assigned. The medical team; consisting of providers, nurses, and technicians, helped cover sick call hours for soldiers in the field.

Dental and optometry exams were also provided in the field to Soldiers in order to help assess those who could remain on site or would need to be moved for immediate medical care.

“The assistance provided by having an Air Force medical team here has been invaluable,” said Army Lt. Col. Richard Moriyama, 1-487 Field Artillery Battalion physician’s assistant. “The assessments, recommendations and training help keep our soldiers here in the fight.”

Bioenvironmental/Public Health:

After arriving at PTA, real-world reports of stomach issues were reported from servicemebers. The biomedical and public health team began investigating possible areas of health concerns.

“One area of concern that can cause health issues are the water buffalos,” said Capt. Jim Riehl, 178th Medical Group bioenvironmental engineer. “We reviewed their sanitation processes and tested the drinking water.”

The Airmen shared their findings and provided recommendations.

The team also inspected mobile-food kitchens and reviewed best practices for sanitation with the soldiers operating them.

Joint Medical Training:

The Army provided a variety of training scenarios to include mass-casualty exercises, live-fire training and emergency evacuation procedures. Airmen were able to test their medical knowledge while triaging simulated medical patients and responding to enemy fire.

Airmen were also instructed on proper medical evacuation of patients loading and unloading on an HH-60M Blackhawk helicopter by the 3-25 Aviation Regiment General Support Aviation Battalion.

The Air Force also provided training for the Army on cardiac health, infection control, glucometers, splints, blood pressure, respiratory treatment and a variety of areas for clinical care.

“This training has been invaluable to our Airmen,” said Col. Matthew Moorman, 178th Medical Group commander. “So much of what we practice here helps prepare and train our Airmen to respond just as they would in a deployed location.”