NUECES COUNTY, Texas –
As the doors and trunks of various vehicles rhythmically close shut in the parking lot of West Oso Junior High School with loud thuds, Soldiers hit the road and leave Nueces County, Texas, fulfilled and better prepared, while members of the public return to their homes having gained a better sense of health and well-being after receiving no-cost healthcare.
It’s all part of IRT or Innovative Readiness Training. This relatively new program is of immense benefit to both local communities as well as service members from each branch of the armed forces.
IRT links community requests for assistance with military training requirements. For IRT Nueces, the Nueces County Commissioners Court requested medical and civil engineering services for Nueces County, and nine different military units from the Army and Marine Corps answered the call. The military units from the Army Reserve and Marine Reserve fulfilled their annual training obligations on this IRT mission, but left not only well trained and competent but also emotionally fulfilled.
“It was very rewarding, very fulfilling," said Capt. Luis Weger, mission planner from the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support). "It was certainly a lot of work but at the end of the day, I’m going to be going home knowing I made a difference.”
And a difference was certainly made; the mission received nearly 4,000 medical, dental and optometric patients over nine days, and also received nearly 1,500 animals for exams and vaccinations. Again, all services were provided at no cost to the community.
One community partner, Mission of Mercy Texas, worked with the IRT program to allow their site to be used for no-cost optometry care. This care was provided by components of Army active-duty units: the 24th Optical Detachment and 507th Optical Detachment, as well as optometrists from Fort Drum, New York.
At Mission of Mercy, the two-story building was made into a high-efficiency optometry clinic. Patients were examined on the first floor, and on the second floor, the optometry techs established a fabrication lab, allowing glasses to be fabricated, from scratch to each patient’s individualized needs. Most impressive is that from the time the prescription is written to the time the patient had newly fabricated glasses in hand, was 20 minutes. Mission of Mercy staff assisted the Army optometry team in these efforts and delivered just under 600 glasses to patients at no cost, saving them about $300,000.
The largest cost savings to the community stem from the mission’s dental services. The dental clinics saw just under 1,200 patients, with every patient receiving dental X-rays. Dental services rendered to members of the community include just under 1,000 teeth extracted, and 700 cleanings performed, all over nine days, and more importantly, all at no cost to members of the community. These dental services resulted in direct cost savings to all patients of just under half a million dollars.
Direct expenses saved to the community were just over one million dollars, taking into account the cost of procedures, labor, equipment, etc.
The Marine Corps Reserve also provided stormwater drainage improvements and assisted Nueces County in paving just under five miles of roads, providing immense value as well, estimated to be about one million dollars of lasting value, per the Nueces County Commissioner's Court.
“Anyone that walks through the door, we will take care of," said Belinda Flores, one of the key community partners. "This is such a good feeling. We’re helping the community members that don’t have medical or dental care, or haven’t seen a doctor or dentist in a decade or more.”
Flores continued, teary-eyed, “I’m very glad to be part of this mission. I’m very proud of our military, I’m very proud to be an American, and we’re here to help each other.”