Marines

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Lance Cpl. Alex A. Dossantos (right), a supply administration and operations specialist with 4th Dental Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, takes a patient’s blood pressure readings under the supervision of Air Force Staff Sgt. Keri L. Christian (left), a medical training manager with 190th Medical Group, 190th Air Refueling Wing, Air National Guard, at Kauai Community College during Innovative Readiness Training Tropic Care 2016, June 25, 2016. Dossantos studies biology and psychology at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., and hopes to pursue a career in neurology. IRT Tropic Care 2016 is part of a civil and joint military program to improve military readiness while simultaneously providing quality services to underserved communities throughout the United States. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Ian Leones/Released)

Photo by Sgt. Ian Leones

Tropic Care 2016: “One Heart, Many Hands”

28 Jun 2016 | 1st Lt. Karen Holliday Marine Corps Forces Reserves

The Marines and Sailors from 4th Medical and Dental Battalions, 4th Marine Logistics Group, Marine Forces Reserve, are working alongside service members from the Army, Navy and Air Force to provide health care services to people of Kauai, Hawaii, from June 20 – 30, 2016.

Innovative Readiness Training Tropic Care 2016 is a Department of Defense operation which provides military reservists with real world rapid deployment training. The initiative is a multi-service operation that provides medical support to a variety of underserved American populations located in remote or rural areas throughout the United States and its territories.

The IRT initiative program was developed in 1992 by then-candidate Bill Clinton as a way to serve American communities in need while also providing realistic military training. The exercise affords the service members the opportunity to hone their skills in a real world environment. The expeditious nature of the sites also aids the service members’ training for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief scenarios.

“IRT Tropic Care is an amazing operation in that we can drop 300 people into a location, give them one day to set up clinics in four locations on an island, build a functioning practice for 10 days and then retrograde in 1 day as if they were never here,” said Lt. Cmdr. Michael C. Cabassa, 14th Dental Co., 4th Dental Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group.

Over 300 military reservists were involved in IRT Tropic Care from start to finish. Site locations included three static sites at Kauai Community College, Kapaa Middle School and Elelele Elementary School and one mobile site designed to target more remote locations on the island of Kauai.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to work together with our sister services, and get together to work as a team to deliver care to an underserved population who otherwise wouldn’t have access to this care,” Cabassa said.

Hawaii Gov. David Y. Ige took the time to highlight the importance of the service members’ work here in Kauai.

“We work really hard to ensure that all of our citizens have access to health care but the harsh reality is that no matter how hard we work, there are many in our community that are unable to get medical care, even the basic kinds of things, like screenings and check-ups,” said Ige.

Physical exams, dentistry, optometry exams and glasses fabrication, medication review, provision of medication, nutrition education and basic behavioral health counseling will be offered to the public free of charge. Patients are seen on a first-come, first-served basis. The Department of Defense is supported by both the County of Hawaii and the Ka’u Rural Health District Health Office in their efforts.

“If IRT Tropic Care were to go away, we would be back to where we were, and no matter how hard we tried, we would not be able to bring the access to those who truly need it,” Ige said. “It is a win-win for us to have the service members here in our community.”

Due to Medicare cuts, dental care was one of the services most utilized during Tropic Care 2016.

“As a dentist, I’m providing care to the people of Kauai, educating them not just dentally but medically, helping them with whatever they need, including basic health care needs,” said Lt. Cmdr. Pooja V. Shah, 4th Dental Co., 4th Marine Logistics Group, “It is very humbling.”

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