Smoky Mountain Medical IRT Welcomes Distinguished Visitors

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Ryan Campbell
HAYESVILLE, N.C., (Aug. 11, 2017) — Distinguished visitors from across the Department of Defense visited the Smoky Mountain Medical Innovative Readiness Training exercise taking place in Clay and Swain counties, Aug. 7, 2017.

The visit was to gain first-hand knowledge of what Airmen, Sailors and Soldiers participating in the IRT are providing to the local community members. More than 200 service members have been in N.C. since late July preparing for, and conducting the exercise that provides medical and veterinary services from Aug. 2-10.

“I think the entire team is doing a lot of great work,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Roosevelt Allen, chief of the U.S. Air Force Dental Corps, Washington. “Ensuring that our medical personnel are able to maintain the skills that are necessary to be prepared to deploy and do what they do in a distant land is becoming more and more difficult.”

The IRT program brings various services into underserved communities to address public and society needs. This in turn allows military units and individual service members to meet training and readiness requirements.

“It makes a huge impact in a number of ways,” said Allen. “The services we are providing whether it’s dental, optometry, basic medical care and even this time with veterinarian services, it provides those services to individuals who may not be able to afford it, so it’s meeting their health care needs.”

With getting out into communities across the country, the IRT program allows the public to see the military in a different light. This has allowed military and civilian interaction to evolve after a period of reduction.

“I think it’s changed significantly,” said the Honorable John Fedrigo, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Reserve Affairs and Airman Readiness, Washington. “If you went back and looked at a map of the United States and where DoD installations existed in 1980, and you looked at it today, we are out of many communities around the country.”

The community members get medical and veterinary treatments and they get to also see what the military is capable of beyond deploying in times of war. Also, the military gets needed training which increases readiness.

The value that the Air Force and the DoD gets out of these missions is invaluable, explained Fedrigo. He also explained how with more than 200 military members visible in the community, the locals are coming out and not only meeting the service members, they’re being treated by them and walking away with a very positive image of the military, which is increasingly important.

The IRT program also represents one of the most cost effective ways for units and individuals to receive training that may not be available at home stations. This helps to ensure that there will continue to be IRT missions in the future.

“We don’t have any other programs right now in the DoD where this sort of training can be provided at the value that it’s being provided,” said Fedrigo. “These are not overly expensive programs, we don’t spend a lot of dollars to get the benefit that we get.”

While the Smoky Mountain Medical IRT has been conducted primary by the National Guard and Reserve, there is talk of expanding the IRT program to include more active duty. The vision is to be able to expand and increase the amount of services that can be provided during the individual IRT exercises.

“My sole purpose for visiting is to see what opportunities are available for active duty components,” said Allen. “I think as we move forward we will be able to have increased active duty support.”

While the IRT program exists to provide training, the priority for the service members will always be to provide the highest level of care possible for those that seek it.

“As always the group of Airmen and their joint partners from the Army and Navy are doing phenomenal things for this community,” said Allen.