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NEWS | June 28, 2018

Tropic Care 2018: Helping the community and increasing readiness

By Sgt. Stephanie Ramirez U.S. Army Reserve Command

The students of Kea’au High School may be gone for the summer, but school is still in session and dozens of U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers are taking over their school from June 18-28, 2018.

Tropic Care 2018 is an Innovative Readiness Training event designed to increase Soldier readiness while also serving the community of Kea’au, Hawaii, and its surrounding areas.

“I think this mission helps our unit stay ready because it is exactly what we will be doing if we ever get deployed,” said Staff Sgt. Chad Dikilato, a dental technician in the U.S. Army Reserve assigned to the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital, 9th Mission Support Command, Honolulu, Hawaii. 

During Tropic Care, Dikilato served as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the dental clinic. Part of his responsibility was to ensure the dental clinic was running smoothly. That included running patients through the clinic, making sure all of the dentists and the technicians had everything they needed, and ensuring the sterilization process was running smoothly.

“This was definitely a crash course on how to basically set up a full-fledged dental clinic anywhere and run it effectively,” Dikilato said.

Tropic Care also offered services such as full medical screenings, eye exams, nutrition advice and even a pair of free glasses. Due to the array of services offered and the high volume of patients, a lot of the Soldiers got the opportunity to work in areas that they weren’t initially trained on. 

“The cross-training gives the Soldiers an opportunity to have a variety of exposure,” said Capt. Zachary Vanzanten, a health services administrator in the U.S. Army Reserve assigned to the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital, 9th Mission Support Command. 

“We have healthcare specialists helping with dental and optometry and working in areas they've never seen before,” he said. “That just makes an all around more versatile soldier, and it adds more value to their training.”

Additionally, Tropic Care and other IRT missions such as this one highlight inefficiencies and give the Soldiers the opportunity to fix them before they get mobilized.

Sgt. Ivelisse Acevedo, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the sterilization room, said that everyday they make changes to their procedures in order to be more prepared for the mission.

“This way when the moment comes and we are actually put to the test, we are ready to go because we know what to do and we know what we need,” said Acevedo, who is an operation room and sterilization technician in the U.S. Army Reserve, assigned to the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital, 9th Mission Support Command.

During Tropic Care, the Soldiers gave medical attention to more than 1,200 residents and gave them access to medical care they didn’t have otherwise. 

“This training event is important because I know that we're making an impact in a community that needs it,” said Acevedo. The residents have given them hugs, pastries, homemade salads and even massages as a token of their appreciation, she added. 

“I’m very happy that services like this one are provided,” said Michele Henderson, a resident of Puna, a neighboring town to Kea’au. “I take care of my father full-term — he is 80 years old and has cancer — and sometimes I can only leave my house twice a month and so having this was a good thing.”