Training missions come in all shapes and sizes…and locations. Think “The box”. But they all come with the same challenge to make it interesting, to make it realistic, and to engage and excite soldiers about serving in the military. Arctic Care’s Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission to Kodiak Island, Alaska in May 2022 verified all of these blocks.
“We don’t use simulators or dummies to train our soldiers. We engage with real patients – exactly what we would do in a deployed environment – and hone our medical skills while serving the community,” explained Major Charles Amanquah, the officer in charge of the Arctic and chief logistics officer. /S4 for the 330th Medical Brigade, Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
With approximately 250 serving members from the Army Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, Navy Reserve and Marine Service United States Public Health, IRT Arctic Care provided over 6,000 health care procedures at no charge, including medical, nutrition, behavioral health, podiatry, physical therapy, dental, optometry, and veterinary services to Kodiak Island communities May 4-13.
Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) CEO Mike Pfeffer said, “There are people in the community who simply don’t have access to services because of work schedules, because of a disadvantage economic, so bringing the IRT to Kodiak is a way for us to ensure the entire community receives the services they need but otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
For many service members, it was the lure of Kodiak Island and Alaska as an annual training location that got them excited about Arctic Care. But for those with IRT experience, they knew the opportunities and challenges they would face.
The main challenge “is procurement…is getting the packaging right and making sure we have medical, dental and optometry packages that we send out to each site so they get everything they need to perform care,” said Capt. Megan Kotsko, Arctic Care J3 Operations Officer and 330th Medical Brigade Medical Planner.
With medical, optometry, dental and veterinary sites established in the town of Kodiak, three more teams were dispersed throughout the island.
“We have teams that we move to Akhiok, Ouzinkie and Karluk and then move them throughout the week to various other locations on the island. [Old Harbor, Port Lions]so they can keep jumping and caring for patients,” Kotsko said.
The two Chinooks and a Blackhawk flown by the Alaska National Guard actually managed to send a team and medical packages to Karluk this year, which has not happened on previous missions due to weather conditions. Unfortunately, high winds still impacted crew travel between remote sites, and flight schedules were reviewed and adjusted for safety reasons.
With a fair market value of all services provided during Arctic Care totaling more than $500,000, Pfeffer continued, “We at KANA appreciate the opportunity to bring service members to Kodiak because, number one, care health care provided, but also the relationships that are built… community members recognize the value of Arctic Care and come together to support it.
And service members are passionate about helping the communities they partner with in an IRT.
What better way to increase unit readiness – at the individual and collective skill levels – than to “deploy”, by forcing all sections of personnel to perform deployment tasks in a joint service environment, by building relationships with community partners and working with or against Mother Nature, to benefit our own communities.
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The IRT is a Department of Defense (DoD) military training opportunity, exclusive to the United States and its territories, that provides joint training opportunities to increase deployment readiness while providing key services (care health, construction, transportation and cybersecurity) to communities. For more information about the IRT program and process, visit irt.defense.gov.