Photo Information

Marine Corps, Army and Navy dental technicians work together to care for a patient at the Kapaa Middle School site, June 19, during Innovative Readiness Training exercise Tropic Care 2014. Kapaa Middle School is one of three main sites that patients can be seen for medical, dental and optometry care provided by the Department of Defense at no cost to the public, providing simultaneous military training for medical personnel. TC14 also allows service members from each branch to combine their expertise in a joint-training environment.

Photo by Cpl. J. Gage Karwick

Service members provide medical, dental, optical care during IRT Tropic Care 2014

24 Jun 2014 | Cpl. J. Gage Karwick

In the 1992 presidential campaign, then-candidate Bill Clinton began his "Rebuild America" initiative. As president, he had the Department of Defense search for innovative programs, which would serve American communities in need and provide realistic military training. Three primary areas of emphasis were suggested which now take advantage of the unique resources and capabilities of DoD health care, infrastructure support and youth training programs.

Tropic Care 2014 is one of the results of this initiative.

Innovative Readiness Training exercise Tropic Care 2014 is in full swing as service members from the Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force cooperate to provide health care services at no cost to the people of Kauai, Hawaii June 16 to June 26, 2014.

The majority of military assets that support IRT initiatives are combat support and combat service support. The combat roles and missions of participating units are compatible with the type of support being provided to the civilian community. IRT initiatives are incidental to the military services’ normal training. The goal is to provide realistic hands on training to enhance existing training programs, while assisting in domestic needs.

“This training, starting at the lowest levels, gives sailors and Marines the opportunity to engage with people who have a variety of medical challenges,” said Brig. Gen. Roger Machut, commanding general, 4th Marine Logistics Group. “They are able to practice reception and triage, provide those services and medical assistance to the doctors and nurses in a volume that we simply could not provide when they are on a normal exercise.”

Tropic Care 2014 also allows the service members to not only to train their medical skills, but also their responsive skills, to be able to respond in a moment’s notice in any situation.

“This training is relevant because this is what we would experience should the Marine Corps get called in to act in a real world operation,” said Machut. The training prepares 4th MLG to support logistics operations worldwide.

“I really do believe that if called upon we could not only get the providers and corpsman and relevant personnel to the location along with their equipment, but also set up quickly and engage with the other services seamlessly to perform their mission.”

The service members know they need to be ready and understand the difference between performing their services to assist the underserved, and assisting in combat.

“I have never had to do this in a combat environment,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Maria Batista, a dental technician with 4th Dental Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group. “Based on what we have done so far, I feel we are all up to the challenge. We know what the doctors need and are quick on our feet. We have had times when we have been low on supplies and had to figure out how to get more without slowing the patient care process.”

The site technicians leaped into action setting up the care facilities at each stationary location.

“When we got here it took us about two or three hours to actually set up the site for the initial use,” said Batista. “Then we prep and sterilize all the equipment before we leave so that we can begin to provide to patients within 10 minutes of arriving back on site.”

Three different treatment sites have been set up in locations around the island, as well as a mobile site that travels to underserved locations to provide the same treatment opportunities to those who are unable to make the trip to a stationary site.

The mobile site changes every two days to reach as many people as possible in the allotted exercise time.

“The mobile site is set up to go to different localities around the island, that are underserved, that would not or do not have access to immediate medical treatment,” said Lt. Cmdr. Stewart Powers, 4th Dental Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, officer in charge of TC14 mobile team.

Patients are not limited to one service per day. As they walk through the door and begin their in-patient processing, many are referred to multiple practitioners and providers to better serve the patients’ needs.

“Today I had medical and dental checks done,” said Brayden Santiago, a patient at Kauai Community College during IRT TC14. “On the dental side, they did a cleaning, and the medical guys gave me an inhaler and lotion for my skin. I loved talking with them, they were very nice, made me feel comfortable and that I was well taken care of.”

When the first day of the exercise had finished, the sites had treated approximately 700 patients, many of them seeing multiple providers, with more than 1,000 services provided.

Tropic Care 2014 allows medical personnel to better understand that their services are needed not only on the battlefield, but in the civilian world as well.

“In the context of a full expeditionary movement of troops and supplies to get here and provide our services to the patients require extensive planning,” said Cmdr. Charles G. Briseno, Kauai Community College site officer in charge and 4th Marine Logistics Group liaison for IRT exercise TC14. “The providers have been seeing enthusiastic patients beyond belief. Our sailors, soldiers, airmen and even the Marines get the chance to experience an IRT exercise in these stable conditions, if we had to do this, say in a more hostile field environment, I am confident that they could perform these same procedures with efficiency.”

When Tropic Care 2014 was at its midpoint, the service members had treated among the sites, approximately 4,000 patients combined, with each site tending to more than 200 patients per day. With the numbers adding up each day and as word spreads throughout the island, whether by word-of-mouth, radio or television, the technicians expect to more than double their mid-point numbers by the end of the exercise.