It’s not often that military training involves multiple components along with community partners and volunteers. But that’s exactly what the Guam Wellness Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) encompassed, with 18 military units from all over the world, along with 19 Guam community organizations, and 130 civilian volunteers from Guam participating. The Guam IRT was conducted at the Calvo Field House at the University of Guam, Aug. 2-10.
The military requires hands-on, real-world training to improve readiness and survivability in complex contingency environments. The community of Guam requested medical assistance and it could not have come at a better time than during the grim aftermath of Typhoon Mawar. By building alliances such as the civil-military partnership developed during this IRT, the military improves readiness, encourages innovation, and provides key services for communities.
“Guam's first IRT medical mission with the U.S. military was a successful partnership with the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services,” said Marlyn Aguilar, Chief Public Health Officer at the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services. “By leveraging our public health resources and working side-by-side with service members, the IRT provided much needed medical care to the island. We were honored to work with these fine representatives from all the military services.”
With approximately 135 service members from the Active Duty U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, Active Duty U.S. Air Force, U.S. Air Force Reserve, Active Duty U.S. Navy, and Air National Guard, the Guam Wellness IRT provided more than 14,700 no-cost healthcare procedures. These procedures included optometry, dental, medical, behavioral health, and immunizations, to over 5,100 community members. Optician technicians from NORA fabricated over 1,380 pairs of glasses. Community partners additionally provided 30 HIV screenings and 159 pap smears. The fair market value of all procedures performed exceeded $2.4 million.
The impact that the IRT mission had on the community of Guam was very apparent to anyone involved. U.S. Army Reserve Sgt. Arenda Wood, a dental assistant from the 1984th U.S. Army Hospital-Pacific and civilian dental hygienist, won’t be forgetting her experience anytime soon.
“I had a patient who had quit betel nut and had so much stain on his teeth, the enamel wasn’t visible anymore. We didn’t have much time due to the mission tempo but I told him I would do everything I possibly could to clean his teeth,” said Wood. “It was hard work, but I was able to remove most of the stain. When he looked in the mirror, he started to tear up. I was so happy to help, and I will never forget giving a man his smile back.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Melissa Simmons, an optometrist from the 21st Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, echoed her sentiment when recounting an encounter with one of her patients.
“A 10 year old girl, Jordyn, came to optometry for her first eye exam and the farthest she could see clearly was around 8 inches from her nose,” shared Simmons. “One of the most rewarding moments of my career was seeing the look on her face when she put on her new glasses. It made all the hard work during this IRT worth it!”
U.S. Army Capt. Dawn Sellers, a psychiatric nurse practitioner at the 1493rd Medical Detachment claims Behavior Health services were also in high demand at the IRT, and referrals continued to increase as the days progressed.
“We served the Guam community and joint service military members in recognizing the need for and practicing resiliency in the context of the unique challenges and stressors that present in daily life and humanitarian service,” Sellers shared.
Impact was not limited to just the community members that received care during the IRT. This mission also left a lasting impact on the military members that provided these essential medical services.
“Providing glasses for the people of Guam was one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever been a part of,” stated U.S. Army Soldier Spc. Mya Harper, an optician from the Naval Ophthalmic Readiness Activity (NORA). “Witnessing a patient put on glasses for the first time is a reward in itself, and to know that NORA was a part of their experience makes our job even more worth it.”
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. Guam Wellness Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) is a joint multicomponent and interagency program with the Department of Defense and the Department of Public Health and Social Services that leverages military contributions and community resources to multiply value and cost savings for participants. More information about the IRT program and process can be found at irt.defense.gov.