KEA’AU, Hawaii –
Hundreds of communities across the United States benefit from the unique skills of the more than 200,000 Soldiers serving in the U.S. Army Reserve.
In the city of Kea'au, Tropic Care 2018, an Innovative Readiness Training mission, provides an opportunity for Soldiers to hone such skills and increase readiness while also providing medical, dental and optometry care. The mission runs from June 18-28.
“I did this mission back in 2016, and I just wanted to return,” said Maj. Chad K. Kawakami, a pharmacist in the U.S. Army Reserve assigned to the, 1984th U.S. Army Hospital, 9th Mission Support Command
, Honolulu, Hawaii.
“It's such a great mission to be able to utilize my skills to help those who are less fortunate.”
However, Tropic Care doesn’t only give him the opportunity to help an underserved civilian population, it also allows him to integrate his civilian and military careers.
“I'm one of the faculty members at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and this is the one opportunity that I can have the students see what we do in the military, in a real-life mission,” he said.
By integrating the pharmacy students into Tropic Care, Kawakami increases the capacity of the pharmacy operation within Tropic Care, gives the students an opportunity for hands-on experience, and creates a bridge between the civilian population and the Soldiers.
“The students and the lay public in general have a perception of what it's like being in the Army, and this is an opportunity for them to see it in real life,” he said.
Aron Brown, one of the pharmacy students from the University of Hawaii at Hilo who participated in Tropic Care, expressed how grateful he is that Kawakami is willing to share his military experience with the students.
“I think that not many students know about the opportunities that lie in the Military,” Brown said. “Dr. Kawakami has been very inviting and forthcoming and has helped open up career possibilities and cultivate new opportunities for students.”
Kawakami emphasized the importance of educating the general public about the capabilities of the Military and opening their eyes to the world that lies beyond the uniform.
“They always ask me, ‘You're in the military?’ and I say, ‘Yeah.’ And then the first thing they say is, ‘Do you fire a weapon?’ and I always have to tell them, ‘Yes, I do, but it's more than that.’
“We have a job. You know I'm a pharmacist; we also have pharmacy technicians. We have nurses. We have physicians, and that's only some of our jobs. Yes, we're Soldiers first, but we also have our Military Occupational Specialty.”
Through IRT missions such as Tropic Care, Soldiers get invaluable hands-on training, but they also get the opportunity to collaborate with civilian organizations and educate the public about their mission.
“I think the best part of this event is that military and the civilians get to connect,” said Deborah Brown, a public health nurse in Hilo, Hawaii, and the Tropic Care volunteer coordinator. “We get to work together, and we get to know each other a little bit better. Most people will never have the opportunity to connect with Soldiers the way we have.”