Helping Those in Need

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rob Barker
  • 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Over the years, National Guard units have deployed to respond to state and national emergencies and overseas operations, but one Maryland unit was recently called upon to fight a different kind of battle. 

From Jul. 9 to 23, Airmen of the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Medical Group from Warfield Air National Guard Base in Middle River, Md., along with members of the Maryland Defense Force traveled to the Sioux Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota to provide muchneeded medical services to reservation residents. 

The National Guard was augmented by a team of seven physicians and a psychiatric clinical specialist from the Maryland Defense Force's 10th Medical Regiment based in Towson, Md. 

Working at the Rosebud Comprehensive Health Care Facility in Rosebud, S.D., the service members provided many different types of services to numerous patients including dental, optometry, emergency room and pharmaceutical. The unit also provided veterinary assistance to animals on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. 

"We have a wide assortment of medical services and they'll all treat their own numbers of patients," said Air Force Master Sgt. Kenneth M. Clark, a public health technician with the 175th. "We are out here to take care of their backlog; to do the things that they just don't have time or personnel to do themselves." 

Clark said the group saw a couple hundred patients but they were prepared for the two-week mission. This is not the group's first time doing this type of mission. 

"We've been to Bosnia. We've been to Peru," said Clark "We've been to Belize and Honduras. Our unit does a lot of humanitarian work." While the unit members enjoy traveling overseas and feel it is rewarding many of them see the need to stay in the United States. 

"It makes me feel great. I love doing this kind of stuff," said Lt. Col. Rita M. Kurek, a dental surgeon with the 175th. "There is a great need for it. Our unit, especially, has been to a lot of different places." 

Kurek added that she was especially happy to be helping Americans here at home. 

Master Sgt. John W. Wissman III, first sergeant of the medical group, agreed. 

"We're now helping our own people," he said. "We're helping citizens of the United States instead of going outside of the country." 

But working domestically was also beneficial to the unit in meeting its training objectives. Members of the MDDF gained operational experience in working with military healthcare providers. 

"This deployment provided our medical personnel the opportunity to exercise their professional skills in a challenging remote environment, similar to what one might find during a civil emergency, while at the same time building closer ties and exercising interoperability with our colleagues in the National Guard," said MDDF Col. Bob Barish, commander of the 10th Medical Regiment. 

"This is our role: to provide competent technical and professional support to the National Guard." 

Wissman pointed out that because the unit was working within the United States, there was "no language barrier" and the unit didn't have to spend as much time traveling as in the past. 

The experience of working together as a unit is priceless, with the interaction helping develop the newer members of the group. 

"It helps us hone in on our own skills and it gives us real world experience," said Wissman. "This allows the newer Airmen we have to interact with the most experienced members of the unit." 

"It's giving me a lot more confidence than I've ever had," said Airman 1st Class Erica A. Morga, a medical service technician with the 175th. "I had a really big fear of blood and needles. I've overcome that in the last few days."