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San Antonio community members, leaders tour JBSA-Fort Sam Houston medical facilities

By David DeKunder | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Aug. 22, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Medical facilities at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston opened their doors to community members and civic leaders during a tour showcasing the contributions of military medicine Aug. 10.

More than 70 individuals, from business, medical and financial sectors, members of veterans’ organizations and San Antonio city officials, participated in the Fort Sam Houston-Military Medical Tour, a joint effort between Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs and the City of San Antonio Office of Military and Veteran Affairs. Tour participants were invited by the Office of Military and Veteran Affairs.

“The objective (of the tour) was to highlight and showcase JBSA-Fort Sam Houston military medicine and how it impacts the San Antonio,” said Maria Gallegos, Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs community relations chief. “The tour itself gave awareness to the San Antonio community and it showcased the services here at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. This (tour) also builds the trust and partnership we have with the community.”

The medical tour was held during Military Medicine Month as designated by the San Antonio 300 Tricentennial Commission, the commission that is putting on the celebration marking 300 years of the city’s founding.

JBSA-Fort Sam Houston medical facilities on the tour included the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC), U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School (AMEDDC&S), AMEDD Museum, Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), the BAMC Hyperbaric Clinic, the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at BAMC and Naval Medical Research Unit San Antonio.

The full day tour started with a breakfast hosted by the USO at the Fort Sam Houston Community Center and included opening remarks by retired Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, director of the City of San Antonio Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, and Wendy Fish, San Antonio USO director.

Tour participants learned about the mission and operations at each military medical facility from commanders, servicemembers and researchers. In addition, tour participants got to see state-of-the-art equipment and simulations, some of which were demonstrated by military medical personnel, used at those facilities to carry out their missions.

Ayala said the tour gave community and civic members an opportunity to go onto a JBSA location to see firsthand what the military does.

“I thought the entire tour was well done,” Ayala said. “The city of San Antonio has a great relationship with the military and these are the types of events I think we should do more of. I always think it’s good when you open up the gates, the community sees what the military is doing.”

San Antonio community members who were part of the tour were impressed by what they saw.

“It was quite fascinating,” said Melissa Aguirre, a yoga therapist. “The Center for the Intrepid was extremely fascinating to me, especially the virtual reality things that they had and I was really intrigued to see. I wished I had more time to learn more about the ways they’re utilizing that to measure the therapeutic benefits of virtual reality.”

Aguirre, who is a military spouse, said the tour of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research gave her a deeper respect for the servicemembers who treat and care for burn patients.

“The burn ward was a little emotional, but it was just very powerful,” she said.

Kyle Braaten, a project manager for Parsons, a program management company, said the tour gave him a better understanding of the missions being conducted at the military medical facilities. As a project manager, Braaten is involved in the healthcare field in projects supporting military medicine and has worked as a civilian paramedic.

“It’s a great tour, just to see the amazing things that are being done right in the backyard here in San Antonio is impressive,” Braaten said. “Being a paramedic, I have to say the curriculum that was being taught at both METC and the AMEDD facility, in terms of critical care transport and the equipment and the scenarios they are putting their students through is world class in terms of training I have come across.”

Col. Jack Davis, METC commandant, stressed the importance of the relationship the world’s largest enlisted medical education campus has with the local community during a tour briefing.

 “With an operation this large and the medical training that we do here, and all the different partnerships that we have with facilities in San Antonio, we could not do it without those partnerships,” Davis said. “It’s critical that happens.”

After the tour was completed, a social reception for tour participants sponsored by the San Antonio 300 Tricentennial Commission and USAA was held in the evening at the Hotel Emma.