117th Medical Group Airmen train with Navy

SAN DIEGO -- Airmen from the 117th Medical Group conducted their two-week annual training here at the Naval Medical Center San Diego from June 19 to July 1.

The unit was embedded with active duty U.S. Navy personnel conducting real-world missions.

During the two week time span the Airmen from the 117 MDG helped the center meet operational demands.  The number one priority of NMCSD is to provide the highest quality patient-centered medical care for veterans, service members and their families and to shape the future of military medicine.  On an average day the center sees 4,000 outpatient medical or dental visits, 1,000 immunizations distributed and 170 Emergency Department visits.

"The Naval Medical Center San Diego staff were great and they appreciated us taking some of the work load off of them," said Maj. Gerald James, 117 MDG Chief Nurse.

The medical technicians and nurses administered immunizations, treated wounds and provided emergency room care.  Dental technicians assisted in cleanings, oral surgery, fillings and fluoride treatments.  The biomedical equipment repair technicians did preventative maintenance checks and repairs of equipment in clinics and on board ships.  The medical group's public health personnel inspected the naval dining facilities. They ensured barracks were inhabitable by checking the maintenance of the buildings, inspecting electrical outlets, and looking for water damage.  They also ensured that the water and ice at the hospital and on the naval vessels were safe for consumption.  The Airmen from the 117 MDG received hands on training necessary to upgrade in their career field education and training plan.

For the Navy, the temporary surge in manning to these clinics provided their operations with increased efficiency and the ability to tend to more patients.

"We were able to work our patient schedule better with them being here," said Petty Officer 3rd Class William Michael Crossen, Jr., Naval Station San Diego Fleet Liaison to Waterfront. "We saw patients faster and that makes our readiness go up."

An example of the Navy's operational benefit was Airmen participation in a mobile unit that administers services to sailors on board vessels in the area.  With the medical group presence, a 16 percent increase in average patients seen in one day was accomplished.

"We have been able to have a synergistic effect in relation to providing manpower to the medical center and at the same time achieving our readiness skills verifications," said Senior Master Sgt. Pavan Polur, 117 MDG Superintendent. "I think engagements like this are absolutely essential as we move forward, especially in these constrained budgetary times."

Airmen were exposed to necessary upgrade training tasks.  Working at a medical center such as NMCSD exposes those in the medical field to a broad range of what the individual's career entails.  They realized the opportunities in front of them in San Diego as opposed to training at their home station.

"Typically we don't get to do very much besides exams and X-Rays," said Airman 1st Class Franchestar Witherspoon, 117 MDG Dental Technician. "Coming here gives us the full effect of being deployed somewhere and gives us experience working with different branches patients and prepares us for a world-wide deployment."

Due to limited access to essential task training available at their home station, Airmen who need core tasks signed off in their CFETP's would have to conduct training off base.  It is a time consuming process.  For Polur, this annual tour was a way to get his Airmen upgrade training and ready for operational needs in an efficient manner.

"If we were to stay in Birmingham we would have to go to different facilities due to specialties done at separate and individual clinics in the private sector," said Polur. "To get the same training as in San Diego would mean multiple annual tours to get them qualified as opposed to NMCSD where we have the opportunity to run them through the different sections and the full continuum of treatment."

With different branches of the military having to work together more than ever in real-world missions, training exercises such as this are a benefit to all involved.