FORT BLISS, Texas –
Nineteen U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 7248th Medical Support Unit (MSU) based out of El Paso, Texas, began annual training requirements while supporting patient care missions at William Beaumont Army Medical Center (WBAMC), Aug. 20.
The unit, which falls under the 7454th Medical Backfill Battalion out of San Antonio, is comprised of different medical professionals from patient administration specialists and combat medics to nurse practitioners and a physician’s assistant.
“Annual training allows for Soldiers to have at least 14 days a year of actual hands-on training related to their duties,” said Capt. Jorge Osorio, operations officer, 7248th MSU. “We coordinated a partnership with WBAMC to employ these Soldiers so they can actually use their skillset.”
Although the unit only mobilized a fraction of its Soldiers, over 50 Soldiers serve in the unit whose mission includes backfilling shortages at Military Treatment Facilities.
“The intent is to support the hospital mission and provide a close to real experience for Soldiers to develop their skills,” said Osorio, a native of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. “This (annual training) fits perfectly in what we do which is to support the backfill mission.”
While the 7248th MSU’s brief stay may positively impact the patient care mission at WBAMC, Army Reserve capabilities support a wide array of medical missions to Army units from backfill at MTFs to veterinary support. The summer season brings a unique challenge to most military units as Soldiers relocate from one unit to another.
“A position within the hospital may truly not be vacant but rather a Soldier may be on deployment or there may be a delay in civilian (hiring actions),” said Col. Gayla Wilson, chief nursing officer, WBAMC. “While all those changes occur in staffing, our mission for patient care never stops.”
According to Wilson, some unconventional thinking led to the reserve unit’s partnership with WBAMC to provide relief for staffing shortages in select areas while mitigating high training costs for the 7248th MSU which is located just miles away from the MTF.
“It’s a win-win. (The 7248th MSU) doesn’t have to go find a place to train and it increases the capability of our organization when they train with us,” said Wilson. “If (a reserve Soldier) is not clinical in their civilian job, this is where they will really get their hands wet. If they train in an (MTF) they refresh their skills, dust off competencies and get their heads back in the military healthcare game.”
The addition of the reserve-component Soldiers also allows for WBAMC staff to exchange best practices while increasing the readiness of both units.
“(The annual training) is not only increasing capability, it’s also increasing safety,” said Wilson. “Anytime we have additional assets, it may only be for two weeks, but they can have a tremendous impact.”
In addition to the occupations already mentioned, Soldiers with the 7248th MSU also include medical-surgical nurses, respiratory, pharmacy, laboratory and behavioral health technicians, and combat medics.
“We’re all intertwined,” said Wilson. “It’s not us and them, we’re all one team.”