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Opportunity in the Ozarks: 307th MDS takes part in IRT mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Ted Daigle
  • 307th Bomb Wing

There are quite a few standard U.S. training sites for the military, but places like Yellville and Mountain Home, Arkansas, hardly top that list.  

But it was in these Ozark towns that Capt. Joy Hood, 1st Lt. Mariah Claire Saratan, and Tech. Sgt. Desiree Melcher of the 307th Medical Squadron participated in the Northwest Arkansas Wellness Innovative Readiness Training mission from July 8 – July 21. 

Innovative Readiness Training missions like Northwest Arkansas Wellness provide communities in the U.S. and its territories with no-cost medical services. It also allows military members to gain valuable hands-on training. 

“It’s a real community partnership,” said Saratan. “I think it’s a great idea because community members get medical services at the clinic, and we get the essential training we need.” 

According to Hood, those no-cost medical services are paying multiple dividends for the military. She, Saratan, and Melcher worked at the military clinic set up at a school in Yellville and Baxter Regional Medical Center in Mountain Home. 

The Airmen provided primary medical care at the Yellville site and Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit support at Baxter Regional Medical Center. 

“It gives the military a chance to put its best foot forward and build a relationship with the community,” she said. “And it builds confidence and trust in the community that taxpayer dollars are returning to them.”  

In addition to training gained by working in the clinic and hospital, the three also received military-specific training in Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC), a 40-hour course designed to help medical personnel save lives in combat environments. 

“It was helpful to get that training because we don’t have any TCCC instructors in our unit,” said Hood. “IRT allowed us to become certified instructors, so we can carry it back with us.” 

Despite the training opportunities and community interaction IRT has provided the U.S. for 25 years, it was the first time any of the three had participated in one. 

“Some of our dental team went a few years ago and said it was very fulfilling,” said Melcher. “But I didn’t know what to expect when I applied.” 

Like Hood and Saratan, Melcher said the training helped the community but also helped her prepare for deployment by meeting Continuing Medical Readiness Training (CMRT) requirements. 

“This IRT is helpful because our CMRT requirements have changed recently to be more about tactical care,” said Melcher. 

Hood said all the success came from the strong partnership between IRT mission leadership and their civilian counterparts, the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District, and the Delta Regional Authority. 

The three groups built the mission from scratch to provide medical care in an unfamiliar and austere environment, including setting up clinics and lodging in area schools. The deployed conditions also provided realistic training opportunities for the more than 180 active-duty Army, Air Force, and Navy troops, as well as the Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard. 

“They have been so successful, in my opinion,” said Hood. “We have had everything we need, and I’ve been impressed. 

In addition to medical missions, the IRT program also provides civil engineering, transportation, aerial spray, and cybersecurity services that have enduring positive impacts on communities. 

To find out more about the IRT program, visit their website at