JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
The 433rd Medical Group has returned home to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland after validating its readiness to deploy by participating in Patriot Medic 23. The training, part of a larger exercise called Global Medic, involved more than 7,100 Reserve, active duty and allied forces as well as coalition partners.
Seventy Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 433rd MDG spent 19 days undergoing rigorous and realistic training at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin. On top of validating the Citizen Airmen’s readiness to deploy, the annual exercise served to enhance interoperability between units, medics, individual reservists and the Joint Force.
Patriot Medic 23 provided Alamo Wing reservists opportunities to sharpen their skills beyond what can typically be accomplished during monthly Unit Training Activities.
“What I’m grateful for is that I’d never seen our people in the 433rd ASTS come together before, they’d never had too before” said Maj. Reginald Whittington, 433rd Aeromedical Staging Squadron Bravo Flight commander. “I was very impressed with the junior airmen, the senior leadership… I would go to war with these people… we have people in the unit that I would trust with my life.”
Participation in Patriot Medic led to learning moments for new Airmen and veterans alike. Airmen from the 433rd ASTS embedded with the 914th ASTS, based out of Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York, as part of their training at the exercise.
“It was the first time in my career that we embedded with another unit” said Whittington, who has served for more than 20 years. “We literally came together with another ASTS who has the same challenges, the same successes, the same, or different, solutions to certain things, and we were able to maximize what works best.”
For several of the Alamo Wing reservists, this was only their first or second exercise with the unit.
“When I went in there, honestly I didn’t know what to expect” said Senior Airman Luis Martinez, a 433rd ASTS medic. “My job here is as a medic so that’s my mentality, I’m going to go be a medic … but it turned out to be a lot more than that. I learned new roles and responsibilities. I learned how to be a leader, and I learned also how to be a follower.”
The exercise not only tested the Reserve Citizen Airmen’s knowledge of their jobs and their physical capabilities, but also their mental resiliency. Many of the lessons were learned the hard way.
“We failed a lot, which was a good thing because you need to feel that pain and then you come up with better solutions next time” said Senior Airman Lindsey Neubauer, who is also a 433rd ASTS medic.
Both Neubauer and Martinez received challenge coins for their performance at the exercise, a traditional way for military leaders to recognize the efforts of their troops.
Patriot Medic also allowed 433rd MDG senior leaders to evaluate and mentor their Airmen, while strengthening the bonds between the members of their teams.
“I’ve been in for 16 years … this is probably one of the most realistic ones” Master Sgt. Julie Fuleky, 433rd Medical Squadron Bravo Flight Chief, pointed out. “As we went through it you started to see the team come together … it was a very valuable exercise because, where we normally only see each other two days a month, we were working closely together for 19 days.”
Col. Michelle Van Sickle, 433rd MDG Commander, served as the Joint Task Force Surgeon at Fort McCoy during the exercise. She observed after the exercise that many of the newer medics were able to more fully understand their mission and the importance of training prior to deployment, while more seasoned medics expanded their knowledge about operating in a contested environment.
“They all came together to accomplish the mission, and all performed at, or above, the standard we expected” Van Sickle said. “I am proud of them.”