GREENVILLE, Miss. – When Capt. Adrian Mateos, 150th Medical Group, New Mexico Air National Guard, was named the officer in charge of training for the 2021 Delta Wellness Innovative Readiness Training Mission in March, he had a philosophy he wanted to implement immediately — to incorporate as much training as possible regardless of Air Force specialty codes, Army military operation specialties or Navy rates.
The challenge was to cater to different services' needs while training in three locations: Greenville, Mississippi, Lake Providence, Louisiana, and Lake Village, Arkansas. Still, Mateos knew this was a great opportunity given the time and availability of personnel to get members trained like never before.
To help accomplish this goal, the classes Mateos and his team had on the schedule during the IRT included tactical combat casualty care, 9-line medical evacuation, combatives, leadership and radio communication. These classes were offered to all IRT participants, whether they were required for their primary job or not.
"What I wanted to bring to the table was to expand training beyond patient care in order to maximize the utilization of annual training days," Mateos said. "To make it relevant and cost-effective as well as joint (service) and to maximize expertise, partnerships and resources to develop a capable force."
Mateos looked at all available training, checked to see who he could get on station to provide the training, and made a schedule to allow as many of the 280-plus IRT participants to attend.
"We built a very strong team with people that are credible and competent in their career field," said Mateos.
A vital member of Mateos' team was Sgt. 1st Class Gareth Wilson, Oklahoma National Guard, training noncommissioned officer in charge. He coordinated with the site training NCOICs and oversaw training at each location.
"Captain Mateos and I met at the mid-planning conference and he kind of gave me his vision. I was in awe of everything he wanted to accomplish. He definitely had lofty goals," Wilson said. "I just wanted to come and help bring everything to fruition by providing good quality training to all the service members."
The hard work has paid off, according to Wilson.
"Everybody that I've talked to that has gone through the training has been very excited," he said. "They said it's some of the best training they've done, and it really helps to boost morale."
One of the training sessions involved teaming with local emergency medical services. Master Sgt. Gregg Hecathorn, 150th Medical Group, NMANG, coordinated the schedules for ambulance ride-alongs – another first for an IRT mission.
"I'm super happy with how the program is going. It's been a great experience. A lot of them had never been in the back of an ambulance," Hecathorn said. "The agencies have been very receptive and willing to help us in any way they possibly can. They've gone above and beyond, and I know they're very happy with having extra hands in the ambulance."
Mateos said this type of training is atypical for Air Force medical personnel but could prove extremely valuable.
"A lot of the experience they are gaining relates to our UTCs or unit tasking codes," he said. "For example, the 150th has a CCAT team, critical care air transport, which of course, is air-based. However, for the providers to be exposed to ground transportation is also extremely important for their awareness on what type of patient they may receive for definitive care."
The wellness team completed over 10,000 hours of training in classrooms, in addition to the training in patient care. This dual training environment allowed the team to save 90 annual training days, along with tens of thousands of dollars in pay and travel expenses.
"Ensure there is proper understanding across the board in the leadership section on what parameters need to be met," said Mateos. "That person should also surround himself or herself with competent, credible and reliable individuals."