SAVANNAH, Ga. – Domestic events, worldwide deployments and debates over continuing resolutions have kept Iowa Air National Guard clinicians from training together for more than three years.
Much to the relief of Chief Master Sgt. Mellisa Sanchez, 185th Air Refueling Wing medical clinic superintendent, 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, Georgia, marks the first time since 2019 the group has gotten together to knock out a good portion of annual training requirements.
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 the group’s ability to provide care and meet other requirements.
Before the National Guard mobilized to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous 185th medical personnel participated in Innovative Readiness Training in Puerto Rico. Members provided no-cost medical care in the U.S. territory. Since that mission, everything has been in flux.
During the past few years, 185th clinicians volunteered to help at state COVID-19 testing centers. Medical technicians recently returned from Reserve Component Period (RCP) deployments to the Middle East. As the deployments were underway, other 185th unit members, including members of the Med Group, assisted with “Operation Allies Welcome” resettlement efforts after the U.S. pullout of Afghanistan.
Clinic personnel helped process 185th Airmen as part of the RCP deployments and those who took off in April for CENTCOM deployments.
All the activities occurred while other 185th Med Group members were still deployed.
Sanchez said the training at the CRTC this month enables the 185th clinicians to focus on training requirements without the day-to-day distractions at home, especially on a typical drill weekend.
“We want to get everyone together at the same time to get training accomplished,” Sanchez said.
The group is working on tactical combat casualty care, a mass casualty exercise and other career-specific training during the week in Savannah.
Lt. Col. Debbie Jacobsmeier, 185th Medical Group commander, said the CRTC exercise goes beyond just training.
“This is good opportunity to build our team and mold the younger Airmen while away from home,” Jacobsmeier said.
She said many of those training at the CRTC 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.