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TROPICARE 13 provides annual training for Reserve medical personnel
Master Sgt. Kontinna Rosebud-Sawyer takes the blood pressure of a patient visiting a clinic June 8, 2013, in Lanai City, Hawaii. Rosebud-Saywer was one of 500 Reserve and Guard medical personnel participating in TROPICARE 13, an Innovative Readiness Training event that provided free health services to communities throughout the Hawaiian Islands, June 2-15, 2013. Rosebud-Saywer is a nursing technician from the 72nd Air Refueling Wing at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dana Lineback)
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 940th Wing
 Hawaiian communities welcome Tropicare 13
Tropicare 13 wraps up readiness training in Hawaii

Posted 6/14/2013   Updated 6/17/2013 Email story   Print story


by Dana Lineback
940th Wing Public Affairs

6/14/2013 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Communities across Hawaii are bidding aloha to more than 500 Guard and Reserve members as Tropicare 13, a medical Innovative Readiness Training event, draws to a close this week on the islands of Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Hawaii.

Reserve component medical personnel from the Air Force, Navy, Army and Air National Guard came together for the joint service annual training, June 2-15, providing free health care clinics and performing community service projects for under-served populations scattered throughout the four islands.

Working closely with local health agencies and community organizations 13 operated five clinics during the two-week training event. The clinics offered basic dental, medical and optometry examinations, health education classes, and pharmaceutical and laboratory services to area residents.

In addition, military members volunteered their time to clean and paint homes of low-income seniors, repair personal computers and school vehicles, spruce up monuments in parks, provide veterinary care for pets, and umpire little league baseball games.

"There's certainly a documentable need for health services for the under-served here," said Lt. Col. Jacki Kaszuba, 482nd Medical Squadron, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla. "The reserves are uniquely capable to help fill this need. We have the qualified, ready-to-go, well-trained medical experts."

Kaszuba, along with Capt. Richard Nold, a nurse with the 184th Medical Group at McConnell Air Force Base, Wichita, Kan., helped triage and serve 458 patients in four days at the clinic on Molokai.

Nold said the benefit of Tropicare 13 was actually two-fold.

"While we're helping the people here, our medics are developing their skills, too. We're used to seeing healthy young airmen, but here we're seeing the extremes, from young children to the elderly, with real-world afflictions," Nold said.

Maj. Helen Lewis, a 940th Aeromedical Squadron nurse from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., commanded the Molokai location during the initial set-up of operations. In the first two days, the clinic there provided 139 eye exams, 40 dental exams, 112 medical exams, 20 dietician consultations, and 8 lab procedures, according to Lewis.

"Within 24 hours of arriving, we were set up in a local school, seeing patients. The people in these communities needed vital services, and we were committed to bringing these services to them," she said.

Lewis admits leadership faced some logistical issues in getting operations off the ground.

"It was a challenge initially to get the right people and the right equipment in place to serve each community's needs," Lewis said. "The reservists who came here are true military professionals. They saw what needed to be done, and they did it. This was hands-on training in operational logistics and medical care - just like a real deployment situation, only no one had to dodge any bullets."

Although the medical training mission took precedence, Alaska Air National Guard's Maj. Gregory Kopp, from the 176th Medical Group, noted that ancillary military training was also an integral part of Tropicare 13.

"With more than 200 reservists from 20 different military units represented just here at Lanai, this has been a great opportunity to network and share best practices between services. It's a chance to give our officers significant leadership roles and to help each other develop professionally in a joint environment," said Kopp, who served as chief nurse in Lanai.

The opportunity for an exchange of valuable information with local health agencies was yet another side benefit of Tropicare 13.

Staff Sgt. Timothy Larsen, a public health technician with the Utah National Guard's 151st Medical Group, was tasked with producing a tuberculosis risk assessment report for all participating units. He had been asked to share his report with the Lanai Public Health office. In addition, Larsen volunteered to conduct water testing and mosquito trapping around the island. 

A local health official had requested Larsen write an article for publication in the city newspaper addressing preventive medicine and non-communicable diseases.

"In any culture, certain beliefs and practices can become public health concerns," said Larsen, explaining that the history of the islands included periods of diseases, such as leprosy, that afflicted hundreds of inhabitants.

"Here, many people are understandably fearful of unexplained illnesses and deformities. Hopefully we can be an additional source of factual information to help local agencies dispel erroneous cultural beliefs about some diseases," he said.

Cultural exchange during Tropicare 13 has been a two-way street, according to Capt. Elise Dent, an Army National Guard member with Maryland's 104th Area Support Medical Company.

"It's been a good experience to get to know the real people of Hawaii," Dent said. "They've made us feel welcome on their beautiful island, and they've educated us about their rich heritage."

"This had been an awesome experience," concurred Master Sgt. Kontinna Rosebud-Sawyer, an Air Force nursing technician with the 72nd Air Refueling Wing at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind. "The community is so appreciative of everything. I feel we've done a good deed here."

"Tropicare 13 was a marvelous example of how the civilian community and the military can work together and collaborate on a highly successful mission," Col. Jerry Arends, IRT mission director, told an audience during closing ceremonies in Lanai City.

"I applaud you and thank you for your efforts here. I hope you've gotten something out of this training, built new skills and strengthened others, made new friends and learned how to interact with other services during this joint mission. I hope this training environment has developed resilience in you to go on to do more of these types of missions or others that may take you to more dangerous locations."

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