HOOPA, Calif. –
Army Reserve Soldiers and members of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve provided medical and dental support to the Hoopa Valley Tribe during an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) mission in Hoopa, California, Aug. 1-15, 2022.
“We are very glad to be here, partnered with the K’ima:w clinical and dental staff as well as the Hoopa Tribal personnel,” said the mission’s officer-in-charge, Lt. Col. Scott Rux, from the 396th Field Hospital, Vancouver, Washington.
Approximately 90 service members were on ground performing their military specialties as medical providers, dentists, nurses, optometrists, pharmacists, nutritionists, respiratory therapists, and Information Technology specialists.
In only ten days of seeing patients, the team had conducted more than 550 dental procedures (exams, X-rays, extractions, making dental prosthesis), 150 medical visits (sports physicals, exams, vaccinations), 150 optometry exams and glaucoma screenings, six nutrition counseling sessions, filled more than 1000 prescriptions, and performed more than 90 Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) service hours in the Hoopa and Willow Creek areas.
Biomedical equipment specialists repaired numerous pieces of medical and dental equipment, primarily X-ray devices, significantly enhancing the dental clinic’s ability to care for patients.
“Probably our biggest impact in a clinical setting would be…in the dental area….They’ve had one dentist and six chairs for a tribe…in excess of 2,500 people,” said Rux.
With a team of board-certified dental specialists and a dental anesthesiologist, the dental group was a tremendous asset.
“Within the first three days, we provided the equivalent of three months of care,” stated Maj. Christopher Torres, a General Dentist from the 185th Dental Company in Garden Grove, California.
During the Distinguished Visitor Day on Aug.12, Jill Sherman-Warne, Hoopa Valley Tribe Board Secretary/Treasurer expressed her gratitude for the military’s medical providers as “We don’t have the specialists” that are needed.
Jason Jackson, on behalf of Joe Davis, Hoopa Valley Tribal Chairman, also noted the impact and significance of partnership with community members and the military.
In acknowledging the limited civilian staff at the medical facilities, Rux said, “All of the people here are wearing many hats, and we provided additional manpower to hopefully ease their burdens a little bit, allow them an opportunity to reach far more people in a specified period of time.”
The goal of IRT missions is not only to provide medical support to local communities but provide military members ‘training hours,’ meaning more time actually performing their military medical duties and gaining new skills.
“All the medics have been tasked with providing clinical support...I was…able to broker a partnership with the local EMS to get some of our medics some real life experience working on the ambulance, getting direct patient contact from the point of care all the way to the hospital, and we’ve also been able to do community outreach with the nurses here to enhance their capabilities,” said Sgt. Jeremy Evans, a combat medic also with the 396th Field Hospital.
“My medics, so far, the value they gain here, they are actually able to see what real medicine is, as far as medical, medical assessments, medical intervention, medicine treatment, compared to our normal trauma that we focus on mostly,” continued Evans.
The mission to Hoopa also brought a joint training environment, partnering the Army Reserve, the Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard, which may work together in a deployed environment but rarely in a stateside mission.
"Opportunities like this are invaluable to our Reserve Citizen Airmen," said Chief Master Sgt. Andrea Young, 624th Regional Support Group senior enlisted leader, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. "Working with our peers across the military promotes goodwill, but also provides vital teamwork, cooperation and joint training that improves our readiness, so we are able to perform our jobs seamlessly when tapped to do so. This particular IRT was especially impactful, as we were able to provide support to a traditionally underserved community, so it was a real win-win for everyone involved."
Despite forest fires in the immediate area compounding the challenges that always come with IRT missions, service members were grateful for the opportunity to serve the Hoopa community.
Sgt. Dustin Johnson, IT Specialist from the 385th Field Hospital, Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane, Washington, said, “It just makes it so much more enjoyable when you know you’re making a difference with people, and I think that’s why we all joined the Army to begin with.”
IRT is a Department of Defense (DoD) military training opportunity, exclusive to the United States and its territories, that delivers joint training opportunities to increase deployment readiness while providing key services (health care, construction, transportation, and cybersecurity) to communities. More information about the IRT program and process can be found at irt.defense.gov.