Iowa Air Guard clinicians train together at Savannah CRTC after three year hiatus

  • Published
  • By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185th Air Refueling Wing

The combination of real world domestic events, worldwide deployments and debates over continuing resolutions have kept Iowa Air National Guard clinicians from training together as a group for more than three years.

Much to the relief of Chief Master Sgt. Mellisa Sanchez, 185th ARW Medical Clinic Superintendent, a large group of 185th clinicians are finally training together in one place at the same time this June.

The training event at the Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah, Ga. this month marks the first time since 2019 that the group has gotten together to knock out a good portion of their annual training requirements.

VIDEO | 04:15 | Iowa Air Guard clinicians train together at CRTC in Savannah GA

While members of the 185th Air Refueling Wing Medical Group have continued to meet readiness requirements, the past several years have served as a kind of stress test on the organization.

The unsolicited examination has tested how much the group can do under constraints that have tested their ability to provide care while also testing their ability to meet a host of other requirements.

Prior to the National Guard involvement in the COVID-19 response, a large number of 185th medical personnel were together when they took part in the Innovative Readiness Training in Puerto Rico. As part of the 2019 IRT, unit members provided no-cost medical care in the U.S. territory. Since the IRT mission, everything has been in flux.

Over the past few years 185th clinicians had volunteered to help at state COVID-19 testing centers. Individual medical technicians have recently returned from deployments as part of the Reserve Component Period or RCP deployments to the Middle-East. As the RCP deployments were underway, other 185th unit members, including members of the Med Group, were part of “Operation Allies Welcome” where they were helping resettlement efforts after the U.S. pullout of Afghanistan.

Clinic personnel have also been helping process 185th Airmen who deployed as part of the unit’s RCP deployments that began last year, as well as those who took off in April for the CENTCOM deployments.
All these activities have taken place while other 185th Med Group members are still currently deployed.

Sandwiched between an abundance of activities the group was helping out with a recent career fair recruiting event this spring and making history with their first all-female leadership team.

According to Sanchez, training at the CRTC this week is allowing them to focus on training requirements without the day-to-day distractions faced at home, especially on a typical drill weekend.

“We want to get everyone together at the same time to get training accomplished,” Sanchez commented.

The no nonsense approach has the group working on Tactical Combat Casualty Care or TCCC as one of the items on the training “to-do” list during the weeklong training period. According to Sanchez, many of the training items on the docket like TCCC require annual certification.

The group has also orchestrated mass casualty exercise training along with a number of other career specific training events while at the CRTC. Sanchez added that doing the training as a collective will make the most of everyone’s time by avoiding doing repeat classes during training weekends when everyone’s schedules fluctuate.

According to 185th Medical Group Commander Lt. Colonel Debbie Jacobsmeier, events like this week’s training are an important time for unit members be together that goes beyond just training time.

“This is good opportunity to build our team and mold the younger Airmen, while away from home,” Jacobsmeier said.

Jacobsmeier has recently taken over as the 185th Medical Group commander. She was with the clinic during the 2019 IRT events in Puerto Rico and also volunteered for an extended state activation as part of the state response to COVID-19.

Jacobsmeier said that many of those training at the CRCT are traditional guard members who like her, are students or work at civilian jobs in the community. Jacobsmeier said it is often the downtime that can be as important as training events in terms of building cohesiveness.

The training this June will hopefully mark a return to normal activity for all of the members of the medical group. With many of the annual training boxes checked they can begin to focus on mission requirements at home and be better prepared for local and national emergency responses when needed.

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