U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Nicole Cafarelli, dental hygienist in the New York Air National Guard's 106th Rescue Wing, is cleaning a patients teeth at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii Aug. 29, 2017. The medical technicians on the deployment for training received hands-on experience in providing patient care under the supervision of skilled preceptors. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Like the fronds of a palm leaf, 28 members of the 106th Rescue Wing Medical Group, fanned out throughout Tripler Army Medical Center for 13 days of training with the center's medical facility.
The New York Air Guard medical personnel were picked for the Aug. 19 to Sept. 3 deployment for training because they scored in the top five of 90 Air Guard medical units evaluated nationally.
Units were scored by criteria which included individual medical readiness, occupational health exams, and percentages of currently credentialed health care providers in the group.
The chance to train at Tripler was extremely advantageous to the medical group Airmen, according to, Col. Pamela Combs, the 106th Medical Group commander.
Although the clinic at the 106th Rescue Wing is not a military treatment facility, medical technicians in the unit must maintain the same training requirements as technicians based at a treatment facility, she explained.
The medical technicians participating in the deployment received hands-on experience in providing patient care under the supervision of skilled personnel.
They also faced challenging tasks found at a larger and more advanced healthcare facility like Tripler Army Medical Center, Combs said. The patient population included active duty military members, family members and retirees, which the Airmen do not normally deal with, she said.
The medical group members accomplished readiness and upgrade training in patient administration; family medicine; anesthesia; emergency medicine; dental; pediatrics; flight medicine; and public health.
"It was definitely an exhilarating experience and the hospital pace was fast," said Technical Sgt. Sandra Martinez. "In a deployment location you're expected to perform efficiently and at a faster rate and we achieved that."
Medical technician Senior Airman Zachary Wagner-Herbert trained in conducting transfusions at the Tripler blood donor center and processed specimens in microbiology. He learned about pathogens and antibiotics while doing this work, Wagner-Herbert said.
"It was a good opportunity to be exposed to different areas of the lab. Everyone I worked with went out of their way to train me," Wagner-Herbert said.
"It was probably the best training experience I've had. I wish we could have stayed longer and learned even more," he added.
One of the unique training opportunities presented at Tripler during the deployment was a real-world patient aeromedical evacuation, Combs said.
"You're actually experiencing what truly is going on," Combs said about being able to witness the demands presented in aeromedical evacuations.
"What are the challenges in making the patient ready for aeromedical evacuation? Keeping the patient stable and also, how much time does it truly take?," she said.
During training an evacuation can be condensed into 20 minutes, but real life is different, Combs said.
"You don't really appreciate the complexity and all the logistics...that have to go into the actual transport. I think it gave them a better understanding of how all of the different components work together to accomplish something like the aerovac, as well as how much time it takes," Combs said.
Throughout the deployment for training, personnel cultivated integration skills crucial on contingency medical deployments and domestic operations, according to Combs.
"Working in that environment with other branches, helping members from the Navy, the Army...It brought us together and helped us to bond as a unit. We went into an active duty station and blended well with them. I felt like we were one with the Army," Martinez said.
Army Col. Andrew Barr, the medical center commander, presented Army Certificates of Achievement to Wagner-Herbert, Senior Airman Ashley Espin, and Senior Airman Joanne Magloire in recognition of the work they did.
Barre also acknowledged excellent performances by coining Martinez, Master Sgt. Karina Munoz, and Senior Airman Juan Lopez.