News Search

178th Medical Group deploys to Alabama

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Stephen DuPuy
  • 178th Fighter Wing
Members of the Army and Air National Guard, Navy Reserve and Air Force joined forces to train in a two-week exercise in which they provided free medical care to Alabama residents starting April 28.
The exercise, called Alabama Black Belt, consists of military teams offering free dental, pharmaceutical, optometry, podiatry and general physician services to the public.
This year Operation Black Belt is providing free medical services in four different locations, including Selma, Demopolis and Hayneville, with a mobile unit being dispatched to Pickensville for a two-day mission.
Cmdr. Scott Olivolo, Navy officer in charge of the Demopolis site, states that approximately 285 military members were deployed for the Alabama Blackbelt IRT, with 77 members stationed at the Demopolis facility. Olivolo, states that the Demopolis facility has been averaging about 500 patients each day.
There is no income qualification to receive free medical services, and patients are seen on a first-come, first-served, basis. There is a pharmacy set up on site that offers basic medicines to the patients.
Chief Master Sgt. Collette Friessen, group superintendent of the 178th Medical Group, states that 25 members of the 178th Medical Squadron deployed for this humanitarian mission at the Demopolis facility.
"The different types of training and cross training these exercises provide are invaluable." Said Friessen.
According to Friessen, 1st Lt. Holly Hogsett, a Health Services Administration professional from the 178 MDG, will be deploying with the mobile unit, which will offer free medical services for two days in support of the Pickensville mission. According to Friessen, the public's overall attitude has been positive, and one of gratitude and overwhelming appreciation for the services being provided by all of the military medical teams.
Maj. Janice Davis, a nurse practitioner for the 178th Medical Group, said these exercises, or Innovative Readiness Training, are conducted several times a year. Davis states that she has been on several exercises to underserved communities in locations such as Hawaii, California, Honduras and Belize. While these may seem like vacation destinations, according to Davis, the environment and conditions are often austere, as operations are usually conducted outside in humid and extreme conditions.
"The teamwork exemplified by our group of Army, Navy, and Air Force Reserve and Guard healthcare
providers, technicians, support staff and administrators was instrumental in making our mission at
Demopolis and Pickensville, a tremendous success. Many of our talented staff consistently worked 12
hour days to provide care to this underserved community while accomplishing valuable training for
disaster preparedness, humanitarian assistance, or battlefield medicine," said Navy Commander, CDR, Scott Olivolo, OIC, Demopolis, Ala.