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Medical group gets robust hands-on training

Maj. Tracy Glenz, a Kentucky Air Guard bioenvironmental engineer, and lifeguard Kat Van Dyke test beach water at a military recreational area on West Oahu. The training kept Major Glenz current on tasks she might be asked to perform in more austere environments if deployed. (USAF photo by Maj. Carolyn Congleton)

Maj. Tracy Glenz, a Kentucky Air Guard bioenvironmental engineer, and lifeguard Kat Van Dyke test beach water at a military recreational area on West Oahu. The training kept Major Glenz current on tasks she might be asked to perform in more austere environments if deployed. (USAF photo by Maj. Carolyn Congleton)

Deployed nursing services personnel receive an airway training class at Tripler Army Medical Center. (USAF photo by Maj. David Martin)

Deployed nursing services personnel receive an airway training class at Tripler Army Medical Center. (USAF photo by Maj. David Martin)

TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Hawaii -- More than 40 members of the 123rd Medical Group deployed here for required annual training from Feb. 6-21, gaining invaluable hands-on experience that will better prepare them for future combat or contingency situations. 

The Airmen received hands-on instruction in a variety of areas, as required by the Air Force's Readiness Skills Verification Program, an effort designed to ensure that medical personnel maintain adequate capabilities to perform their duties during wartime, humanitarian assistance efforts and installation-response contingencies. 

According to Col. Diana Shoop, the group's commander, an opportunity for this type of robust training is rare in today's military because so many military medical facilities have been down-sized to clinics or -- at best -- "super clinics."

The chance to train at a major facility like Tripler is so coveted, she said, that the Kentucky group had to compete with more than 90 medical units nationwide before being selected by the National Guard Bureau to participate. 

"The 123rd Medical Group was very fortunate to be selected to train at one of the largest and best-equipped medical hospital and training centers," Colonel Shoop said. "Tripler Army Medical Center is a 200-bed training hospital that supports 264,000 local active-duty and retired military personnel, their families and veteran beneficiaries." 

Of particular benefit to the deploying Airmen was the center's Reserve Affairs Division, which is responsible for supporting reservists' annual training requirements. 

Prior to deploying, Kentucky Airmen submitted training plans to the medical center. Upon arrival, designated sponsors with customized training plans greeted the Airmen to help them attain their unique training goals. 

"I felt the training was great," Colonel Shoop said. "Many of our members were very impressed with their sponsors, who went out of their way to provide exciting hands-on training." 

Staff Sgt. Marie Plaza, a medical administration troop, was among them. 

If the training seemed to be going down a path that was inconsistent with the requirements, Staff Sgt. Plaza said, the group's sponsor quickly allowed them to move to areas where the training would be more beneficial. 

"What I liked best was how the rotations allowed focus on specific (activities)," she said, "such as aerovac and admissions and dispositions. 

"I felt good about the training because, for me, it gave me the active-duty experience that I did not have," she added. "I got a better overview on how the whole process works and how it all comes together." 

Col. Shoop said her troops did an outstanding job throughout the deployment.

"They are without a doubt some of the brightest and most talented medical specialists you will find anywhere," she said. "While we were deployed to hone our peace-time and war-time medical skills, once our talent pool was discovered, many of our members ended up teaching classes as well."