Lt. Col. James Hammond, an optometrist with to the 452nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron in Robin Air Force Base, Ga., conducts an eye exam on a patient at the Madison S. Palmer High School July 22, 2013, during the Mississippi Medical Project in Marks, Miss. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz)
Spc. Carissa Luck, a licensed practical nurse assigned to the 4224th U.S. Army Hospital, Des Moines, Iowa, conducts a blood pressure check on Iris Lester, a student at ITT Technical Institute in Cordova, Tenn., at the Madison S. Palmer High School July 22, 2013 during the Mississippi Medical Project in Marks, Miss. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz)
Spc. Jessika Roney, animal care specialist attached to the 4224th United States Army Hospital, Des Moines, Iowa, preps a canine July 21, 2013, for surgery at the veterinary care site set up at the St. John Episcopal Church in Helena, Ark., during the Mississippi Medical Project. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz)
Service members of the Army Reserve, Air Force Reserve and active Army and Navy organized as Task Force Bull Dog, established the Mississippi Medical Project as five temporary clinics in eastern Arkansas and northwestern Mississippi.
The task force's project is part of the Department of Defense Innovative Readiness Training Program, which combines military training with civilian social service needs, so that service members, in primarily the medical, engineering and transportation specialties, have the opportunity refine their skills, while providing services to local communities.
Col. Rhonda Moore, the task forces exercise director and the commander of the 4224th USAH, said she thinks the MMP is a great opportunity for service members to experience hand-on, real-world training.
“If I were to talk to a soldier about joining an Innovative Readiness Training next year, I would tell them it's unlike any training you are have ever had before,” said the colonel, who is a native of Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.
Soldiers get up close and personal with the local civilian population, said Moore. It is also an chance to see different areas of the country and get immersed in different cultures. “It's training they won't get at a reserve center.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Jennifer Burton, the senior enlisted adviser to Moore, said, the Delta Regional Authority, the federal agency created to organize federal services and projects in the region, selected the area within the Delta Region for the MMP to include Miss. towns of Clarksdale, Marks, Tunica and Rosedale and Helena, Ark.
Burton said, the residents received medical services ranging from free eye exams and, glasses, dental exams and minor oral surgery, in addition to screening for hypertension and diabetes. In addition personnel provided veterinary services.
At the end of the exercise, the more than 220 personnel treated more than 5,000 patients and more that 150 animal, said Burton, a native of Peoria, Ill. The command Sgt. Maj. said she heard many touching stories,
“I had spoken to a lady that was waiting to get her eyes checked,” she said. “She stated she hasn't had new eye glasses made for herself in at least 15 years because she couldn't afford it.”
The woman said with the new glasses, she can now read to her grandchildren and was excited about that fact she can spend more quality time with them.
“The people have been very welcoming and grateful of what we are doing down here,” she said.