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NEWS | May 31, 2022

Minnesota medics care for Alaskans in remote communities

By Sgt. Mahsima Alkamooneh, Minnesota National Guard

KODIAK ISLAND, Alaska – The Minnesota National Guard’s 204th Medical Company Area Support Company mobilized to Alaska for Arctic Care 2022 May 3-14.

Arctic Care is an annual Innovative Readiness Training program with the Kodiak Area Native Association, providing free medical, dental, optometry and veterinary services to residents in the remote area.

“We are serving the local Alaskan underserved populations and unmet community health needs on Kodiak Island,” said Army 1st Sgt. Sandra Johnson of 204th Medical Company Area Support.

The training is a collaborative program that leverages military contributions and community resources to produce mission-ready forces, civil-military partnerships, and stronger communities.

The 43 Minnesota Guard members joined more than 200 other service members across several branches of the U.S. military. Traditionally, the 204th MCAS provides health support to units in combat areas.

The exercise enabled service members to apply their military medical skills in a civilian community and perfect their abilities in a deployed environment.

Service members split into four joint teams and traveled to seven locations, including the villages of Karluk, Larsen Bay, Old Harbor, Akhiok, Port Lions and Ouzinkie while learning about native cultural values.

“This was 100%, hands down, the best training experience for any medical [Soldier] or Soldier in general,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Howell, 204th’s readiness noncommissioned officer and Team Four’s noncommissioned officer in charge during the exercise. “We had [National Guard], Air Force Reserve, active Air Force, Army, Navy. There was even the United States Public Health Services.”

In addition to working with several medical elements, Minnesota Guard members cross-trained in veterinary, pharmacy and ophthalmology services.

“We had medics working with vets,” said Howell, who has served for more than 13 years. “We had veterinarians pulling teeth, and our medics were able to assist at times. That cross-training is something that you will never get without an experience like this.”

During the 10-day mission, service members handled 6,199 procedures.

“Some of the villages there, they don’t have providers that show up. Some will never even have a dentist ever,” said Howell. “Most of us felt very humbled to be able to be there and actually do our jobs in the medical field with U.S. citizens that are in need of it.”