173rd FW Airmen provide medical care, participate in training

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

A group of medical professionals from the 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls, Ore., traveled to the Hawaiian Islands for real-world medical training that also served a needy community.

The Air National Guard Innovative Readiness Training program folded the Oregon Airmen into a team with troops from the Navy Reserve, Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, providing nearly 18,000 procedures worth $1.6 million dollars, said 2nd Lt. Lee Charnow, a 173rd FW medical administrator.

That team served around the island of Maui and Molokai, an adjacent island.  Although Maui is an upscale tourist destination, its high cost-of-living and limited industry relegate a significant number of the population to at or below the poverty level.

Charnow said helping people in this fashion helps prepare a unit for their deployed mission.

“The main reason for the military part of the training, is the integration of the different services-- just but being able to work when you are thrown together with limited supplies and still get the job done is part of the readiness training,” Charnow said.

Charnow said the IRT mission replicates many of the actions they will use in a local exercise he is spearheading for a possible Cascadia event response. “Deploy and set up services in a limited amount of time.”

“I’ve got to do a lot of things in the field like in a deployed location,” said Tech. Sgt. Kendall Nielsen, a bioenvironmental troop. “I did water vulnerability assessments and partnered with public health to do food vulnerability assessments—if I deploy I will use those skills.”

Naturally there was an element of service, providing much needed care to those who couldn’t afford it.

“There was one guy who you could tell probably hadn’t had glasses in maybe a decade,” Nielsen said.  “I handed him his glasses and he was like ‘oh wow!’—it was very, very endearing to watch these people get these services and their appreciation was amazing.”

“It’s an awesome service for our community,” said Mice Kahula, who works for the Maui County Parks Department and served as the civilian logistics manager for the Hana site.

The IRT program began in the early 90s and continues to provide mutual benefit to units from all the service branches as well as needy communities.