FORT BLISS, Texas –
Approximately 150 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from the 7251st Medical Support Unit (Forward), Albuquerque, New Mexico; the 7234th Medical Support Unit, Camp Parks, California; and the 7402nd Troop Medical Clinic, Vallejo, California; are currently serving a yearlong mobilization that begun here on October and November, 2022. The three units were mainly dispersed to the Soldier Readiness Processing Center here, the Chambers Dental Clinic here, and the aid station in McGregor Range Complex, New Mexico, in support of Mobilization Force Generation Installation (MFGI) operations to provide medical screenings and support to National Guard and Army Reserve Component Soldiers during their pre- and post-mobilization phases.
"The medical support unit here runs the Soldier Readiness Process at the SRPC site," said U.S. Army Reserve Lt. Col. Daniel Gardner, a pharmacy officer and commander of the 7251st MSU, Albuquerque, New Mexico; and officer-in-charge of the SPRC here. "In addition under our command and control, we have the troop medical clinic here whom is responsible for providing sick call services, as well as supporting a couple other elements that we have here on the footprint."
"The majority of my staff are contract civilian personnel and a few GS personnel," Gardner said. "They are the continuity here."
The primary function of SRPCs and TMCs in an MFGI is to ensure that Soldiers have been medically cleared for their imminent mobilizations.
"We have to make sure from a medical standpoint that personnel are healthy enough to go downrange and execute the mission," Gardner said. "We validate here at (the SRPC), as readiness really begins at your home unit. What we look for is if the Soldiers meet the basic medical readiness requirements of the Army."
Conversely, the SPRC and TMC here also evaluate Soldiers upon their demobilization before they return to their homes of record.
"In addition, we want to make sure that our Soldiers are taken care of and if they have a medical problem, we want to make sure that we (channel them) the right way to get that medical problem taken care of, and that's a big part of the demobilization missions," said Gardner. "So when units come back from their deployments, we assess them to make sure that they do not have a medical condition that requires further care."
For the SRPC alone, the Soldiers of the 7251st MSU and civilian contractors routinely handle groups of Soldiers at least twofold of their total staff population.
"The average throughput is about 250 Soldiers at any given time," said U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. 1st Class Saira Zimmerman, the Fort Bliss SRPC medical operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge and assigned to the 7251st MSU. "We do have the ability to do up to 800 Soldiers a day, and that's for a 10-hour day."
In the past, the Fort Bliss SRPC was originally at Building 60 here - which was a reconstituted schoolhouse that was built in the 1940s. However, its perpetual dilapidation eventually led to the unit's quick and efficient move into its new location at Vogel Hall here.
"The advantages of this new location; beyond the fact that is nice, new and shiny and we have air conditioning in this El Paso heat, is the capacity of the building," Gardner said. "We would need to be able to expand our ability to process Soldiers, and (Vogel Hall) has excess capacity and space. So if we had to bring in another medical support unit or other assets, we have the room to accommodate that staffing and to accommodate a larger number of Soldiers at a time."
"The advantage of that would be if we can get everything done here in one spot in one day, we can more rapidly put Soldiers through and get them onto their missions," said Gardner.
Occasionally, the SRPC and TMC personnel would detect issues with mobilizing and demobilizing Soldiers that were previously unknown to the latter.
"They're called incidental findings, based off maybe an X-ray or an MRI," said U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Kendra Johnson, a nurse practitioner assigned to the 7251st MSU and the Fort Bliss SPRC Provider OIC. "The health and wellness of the Soldier also goes into preventative care, as the screenings that we do here may catch something that the service member doesn't realize that is going on with their overall health and wellness. Depending on what the incidental finding is, it may warrant further testing which we prefer to send to William Beaumont Army Medical Center to have that follow up taken care of."
U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Andrea Gonzalez, a dental specialist and the Fort Bliss SPRC Dental NCOIC, echoed the observations.
"We'll find two, three or maybe more cavities on some of these Soldiers, and they would have no idea," said Gonzalez. "Sometimes, they're not here long enough for us to provide the treatment that they need. But they do have 180 days of temp benefits that they can use once they return home. So depending on if they live near a military installation that accepts that type of Tricare, or if there's a civilian within the area that will accept the insurance that they are on, they can find a provider of their choice and get that worked on."
The Army Reserve medical Soldiers of the three aforementioned units will remain on mobilization orders here until October and November 2023.
"I've been very fortunate to have a great group of Soldiers; a very diverse group, but a group that when asked, they always rise to the occasion," said Gardner. "Every time I ask, they execute well. So as a commander and as a leader, I've been very blessed with that and I'm very proud of the unit as well as our civilian colleagues that we work with, and everybody does a great job here every day."