Lt. Cmdr. Erin Millea, a general dentist, from 4th Medical Bn., 4th Marine Logistics Group, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve, provides a dental exam for one of her patients on the Round Valley Indian Reservation in California. Photo by Lt. Col. Angela Wallace / Army Reserve Medical Command
Health | National

DVIDS: Military partnership brings health care to Round Valley Indian Reservation

Innovative Readiness Training’s medical care supports communities in need

By Lt. Col. Angela Wallace

COVELO, Calif. – In the northwestern corner of California lays a valley nestled in the mountainous outskirts of Mendocino National Forest. Tucked into that region is a population of some 5,000 people who reside on or near the Round Valley Indian Reservation, which is home to several tribes including its original inhabitants from the Yuki tribe. This is the setting where fifteen Soldiers and Sailors joined forces with civilian medical professionals for two weeks in order to provide needed services to the local community.

Maj. Gen. Mary Link, commanding general for Army Reserve Medical Command, visited the site, which is one of five different missions for ARMEDCOM supporting Innovative Readiness Training for 2017.

“For our Soldiers in ARMEDCOM, these IRT (Innovative Readiness Training) missions are probably our number one readiness builder. Just the process of getting them here, doing the prep work, getting the schedules laid out, working with the local community and then actually doing the patient care which in this facility it’s a lot of basic wellness exams. That’s exactly what these Soldiers would be doing in a wartime scenario for a mission they would be assigned to do,” said Link.

More than 300 Soldiers assigned to ARMEDCOM have participated in IRT missions for 2017, and Link explained that there are additional benefits to this program beyond enriching individual skillsets.

“Anywhere we serve, especially in military medicine, we are serving alongside our sister services, and here in Covelo we have three Navy personnel working with our Soldiers to support this community. It’s really important, especially at the ground-roots level that our providers and our corpsmen and our combat medics are working together to understand that the mission is not just an Army mission or Navy mission, but a military medicine mission. We go down range together, and if they work together now, they’re going to be ready to work together down range and will understand each other better,” Link said.

Private 1st Class Nina Lapa, a combat medic assigned to Army Reserve Medical Command’s 7221st Medical Support Unit, gathers patient vitals and initial visit data. Lapa is one of 12 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers who are working alongside Sailors from 4th Medical Bn., 4th Marine Logistics Group, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve in partnership with Round Valley Indian Health Service to provide medical care to the local tribal population. Photo by Lt. Col. Angela Wallace / Army Reserve Medical Command

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers assigned to ARMEDCOM’s 7221st Medical Support Unit, based out of Newark, Delaware, and Navy medical personnel assigned to 4th Medical Bn., 4th Marine Logistics Group, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve, based out of San Diego, California, in partnership with Round Valley Indian Health Service, offered health care services at the Round Valley Indian Health Clinic in Covelo, California from July 17th through the 28th.

Over the course of the two-week period, military personnel saw hundreds of patients, providing general exams, school exams, physicals, dental exams and x-rays, general cleaning, extractions and education on preventive care. Services provided by Army Reserve and Navy personnel are done through the Department of Defense’s IRT program, a civil-military program that builds mutually beneficial partnerships between U.S. communities and the DoD. This mission meets training & readiness requirements for service members while integrating them as a joint and whole-of-society team to serve America’s communities.

Though the help is well received and the training aspect is invaluable, Lt. Cmdr. Erin Millea, a Navy Reserve general dentist assigned to 4th Dental Bn., U.S. Marine Forces Reserve, has a personal connection to her work.

“My dad is a dentist, so I grew up never fearing the dentist and it’s something that was always interesting to me… I joined the Navy because I’ve always thought of myself as someone who is very patriotic and this provided me the opportunity to serve my country. I served on active duty for five years, and then chose to come into the Navy Reserve and continue my service. It’s a way to be a part of something big that I feel proud to be a part of,” Millea said.

Millea explained why this mission was a good fit for her dental team.

“The two dental assistants that are here with me are not specifically dental trained, so it’s been great. They’ve been able to learn how to take x-rays, they’ve learned how to chart, and have been chair side assisting. So it’s great not only for our patients who are getting taken care of, but also for our corpsman who are learning dental specific things as well,” said Millea.

James Russ, executive director for Round Valley Indian Health Center, shared the impact the IRT program has had for the community.

“It’s been a really positive experience. This is probably our sixth year that we’ve participated in an Innovative Readiness Training mission. The community has really embraced them. Even though there have been various groups who have joined us from the Army or Air Force or Navy, they always say, ‘The Army docs are coming!’ They really embrace this group and it’s been helpful for our staff, because we are busy all the time doing patient care. We have some major projects that would’ve taken us months to do, but with the Army Reserve personnel here, it’s going to be done by the time they leave,” said Russ.

“We have needs within our own country, and you’re here right now providing that support to us which makes a big difference. It helps increase the health status of our community, and we’ve had really positive experiences with the different rotations that have been coming here throughout the years,” Russ concluded.

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