Virginia Guard Airmen complete humanitarian mission in Hawaii

Maj. Tiffiney T. Harper, chief of dental services for the 192nd Medical Group, provides dental care for a young patient March 7 during Tropic Care in Hawaii. (Contributed photo)

KAUA’I, Hawaii — More than 40 members of the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Medical Group deployed to Kaua’i, Hawaii, from Feb. 27 to March 9 to participate in the first Tropic Care Innovative Readiness Training operation.

The operation brought together nearly 300 National Guard, reserve, and active-duty assets from the Air Force and Navy to accomplish priority medical training requirements while providing basic medical services to underserved Americans on the island.

The task force completed more than 20,000 hours of training and delivered $1.98 million in health care services to more than 10,000 Americans in need. The success of the pilot program sets the stage for more deployments like this in the future.

“When you think of Hawaii, the last thing you would envision is thousands of Americans without access to basic medical, dental and vision services,” said Col. Brian Preston, 192nd MDG commander. “For the medical group to accomplish so many training requirements while doing so much good for people in need is a truly amazing experience.”

“Creative initiatives like Tropic Care produce valuable training platforms and provide life changing medical services to American citizens, sending a clear message on the relevance of the National Guard,” he added.

The operation included deployment and readiness training, allowing medical group personnel to operate in real-world field conditions. The Guardsmen worked in an open-gymnasium without running water, sleeping on closely-packed cots and living on field rations. While deployed, the medical group experienced 45 inches of rain and gale force winds, challenging the flexibility and durability of the medical mission.

“Our folks hit the ground running, doing whatever it took to get the mission done,” said Maj. William Bolling, the 192nd MDG Medical Administrative Officer and Tropic Care site commander. “Our Airmen set the standard for performance from the first day until the last piece of equipment was packed up on the last day under some brutal weather conditions.”

According to Senior Master Sgt. Frank E. Quinones, 192nd MDG senior health technician, medical administrators worked with volunteers and greeted arriving patients. They determined what their needs were and routed them to the appropriate dental, optometry or physician line for medical treatment.

“For this free care, the Innovative Readiness Training team tracked patient ailments, type of care needed, patient totals, dates and money spent,” Quinones said.

Working in field conditions gave Airmen a chance to train in areas outside of their day-to-day jobs, expanding their skill sets.

“We were exposed to doing other things in the medical field, which was an amazing opportunity,” said Senior Airman Deandra R. Covington, a 192nd MDG aerospace medical technician. “I gained experience in pharmacy, dental and optometry. It was really good knowledge.”

In addition to the medical squadron being deployed, an eight-man team from the 203rd RED HORSE was also deployed.  This team constructed an outdoor deck, pathway, meeting area, renovated restrooms and completed various building projects for the local church.  The team also assisted in evacuating middle school students due to flooding.

View more photos on the 192nd Medical Group Facebook page: