by Maj. Satomi Mack-Martin, 3rd Medical Command Deployment
A row of 12 Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, and Air National Guard service members kneel by tent flaps laying flat on the ground. In pairs, they work together like a well-oiled machine, with one person kneeling and the other person squatting, ready for the command to insert a pin into the tent hole and assemble a hospital tent.
“Raise your hand if you’re putting the pin in,” commands Army Capt. Burke Tervort, as he identifies particular roles and guides them through setting up a veterinary hospital tent. “Prepare to lift”. The row of service members, in unison, lift up one side of the tent.
Tervort then commands the group to find the pin and adjust the poles accordingly.
Thursday, July 14, service members prepared their perspective areas with setting up tents, equipment and supplies in preparation for the Innovative Readiness Training event, which took place simultaneously in Cortland and Chenango Counties, N.Y.
Healthy Cortland and Greater Chenango Cares IRTs are events designed to provide real-world training opportunities in a joint civil-military environment while delivering world-class medical care to the people of Homer and Norwich, N.Y., from July 15-24.
“What they did for the community in 10 days, I have so much respect for them,” said Donna Jones, director of planning for Chenango County.
“I saw 170 service members come to our area,” added Jones, “and then 24 to 36 hours, they set up tents, they set up clinics, they set up operating rooms to spay and neuter the animals, and they just bring in these connex boxes, they put air conditioning in the school, and you’re just in awe and amazed that they can do this.”
The Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Board was responsible for applying for the IRT program for both locations.
was the lead organization for the Healthy Cortland IRT site, and was responsible for training over 500 volunteers. SVHC and Cortland County partnered in planning the logistics.
The lead organization for Chenango County was the Chenango United Way, which also coordinated with over 500 volunteers, donations, and planned the logistics for the event, along with the military.
During the first two days, local participation started off to a slow start. Through word-of-mouth, and community engagement efforts, local residents grew more excited about the events.
One attendee stated, “some people had a hard time believing that the services were provided at no cost.” The participation increased drastically throughout the week.
Both locations performed exceptionally well with the number of procedures performed, and the cost savings to the community during the 10-day event.
Over 1,800 people attended the Healthy Cortland IRT event at Homer Intermediate School from July 15-24, where 7,613 procedures were performed for medical, dental, optometry, and veterinary services. The cost in savings to the Cortland County community totaled $851,426.
Greater Chenango Cares IRT serviced the community for a second year at Norwich High School with providing services to 1,850 people. Over the course of the 10-day event, 10,310 procedures were performed in medical, dental, optometry and veterinary services. The cost in savings to the Greater Chenango County community totaled $914,904.
J. Slater, a local resident in Chenango County, attended the IRT with her grandson and said that it had been five years since she had a good pair of glasses.
Slater said she brought in her 21-year-old grandson over the first weekend to get an eye exam and glasses, and then shortly thereafter, he came back for dental work. Within a few days, the entire family of four came in to receive services.
Slater’s grandson stated, “This is amazing. We don’t pay for anything?”
During the 10-day event, community members were able to take advantage of medical, dental, optometry, and veterinary services at no cost, even if they had medical insurance, were underinsured, or uninsured. There were no income requirements to attend, nor was identification needed.
Today, the sections prepare to dismantle their tents, stations, dental chairs, and all the equipment they used during the IRT, after providing services up until noon for previously scheduled appointments.
Walk-ins were welcomed and encouraged throughout the IRT. Previously appointment lines were made available a month prior to the event.
Participating in the IRT events were service members from the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, active
duty Navy, and Air National Guard, many of whom traveled as far as from California, Texas, Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland.
Service members that supported the Greater Chenango Cares and Healthy Cortland IRTs are well-trained and many work as medical personnel and licensed professionals on their civilian jobs.
Innovative Readiness Training events have been held across the nation, serving underserved communities since 1992, and are designed to support community organizations in realizing their visions for sustainable and thriving communities.
IRTs are cost-effective and are often funded within existing military training budgets. These events are examples of America’s tax dollars used to service American taxpayers.