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37th TRW stands up own medical group

By James Coburn | 37th Training Wing | Jan. 11, 2007

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Lackland Air Force Base, Texas — The 37th Training Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, has just grown by more than 360 medical personnel dedicated to providing top-notch primary and family care to its trainees, students and permanent party military members and their families at six clinics across the city.

The 37th Medical Group officially stood up Dec. 22 in a small reactivation ceremony at its headquarters across Biggs Avenue from the Warhawk Fitness Center.

Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones, commander of the 37th Training Wing, welcomed Col. (Dr.) Tim Halligan as the 37th MDG's commander.

Colonel Halligan came to be known as "the base doc" as commander of the 59th Aeromedical-Dental Squadron that previously operated the six clinics. The 37th MDG was formed from the 59th AMDG. The 59th AMDG was separated into two separate groups: the 59th Dental Training Group of the 59th Medical Wing, and the 37th MDG.

"This gives the 37th Training Wing commander dedicated medical assets responsive to the needs of Lackland Air Force Base and its training mission," Colonel Halligan said of the new 37th Medical Group. "This will make the 37th similar to other bases."

The 37th TRW now has its own medical assets for the first time since Wilford Hall Medical Center was completed in 1957, according to research by Tech. Sgt. Tracy English, NCO in charge of the 37th TRW Office of History and Research. He said Wilford Hall then became a separate unit that provided medical assistance to the base training mission.

Sergeant English said the 37th MDG was first activated on paper in April 1953 to support a possible Korean mission, but was deactivated in June 1953 when North Korea resumed peace talks.

The reactivated 37th MDG will use its historic emblem, and its two new squadrons, also activated Dec. 22, are working on new emblems capturing the specific missions of the primary care squadron (37th MDOS) and the trainee-focused care squadron (37th AMDS).

"Team Lackland members will still receive the same great care they've come to expect," General Jones said. "This reorganization is just another version of the great partnership between the 37th Training Wing and the 59th Medical Wing.

"The 37th MDG has a great spirit, a great heritage and a great attitude."

A formal redesignation ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 25.

"Clinically, the patients will see nothing different, except the (uniform) patch," said Maj. Eric Peipelman, the group administrator. "We will no longer have the 59th patch; we'll be wearing the 37th now."

Colonel Halligan said the 37th MDG was reactivated because of transformation to the objective medical group in which operational wing commanders have direct authority. In Lackland's case, he said General Jones now will be able to direct any needed improvements to primary medical care immediately, instead of having to ask the medical wing commander to order the changes.

Another key reason for the change is that the training wing's primary medical focus is primary care for its trainees and the base's military members and their families, the colonel said, whereas "Wilford Hall's focus has always been graduate medical education and specialty level care."

The new 37th MDG's 360-plus members include approximately 75 doctors, nurses and physician assistants, Major Peipelman said. It has two squadrons: the 37th Aeromedical Squadron commanded by Col. Mike Bunning and the 37th Medical Operations Squadron commanded by Col. Dawn Wilson.

Major Peipelman said the 37th MDG operates six family practice clinics, including two new ones opened recently on the city's North Side to care for military members and their families near where a majority of the base population lives.

The newest, the North Central Federal Clinic, opened in early December at 17440 Henderson Pass, near the intersection of U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 North.

Another clinic is located on Camp Bullis.

The group also operates a family practice clinic on the first floor of Wilford Hall; Reid Clinic on the training side of the base; Kelly Clinic on Kelly Field Annex; and Brooks Clinic at Brooks City-Base.

"We actually have 14 buildings across the city that we have activities in, everything from life skills to (drug) demand reduction to family practice to optometry," Major Peipelman said.

He said the medical wing will provide financing and a lot of support services to the new group until Oct. 1, when the group is slated to take over its own financing and become a fully independent medical group with the 37th TRW.

"It's a nice safety net, as we are technically our own medical group, brand new, but still connected with Wilford Hall for a number of things to help us out, and we're progressing toward complete independence on Oct. 1.

"The exciting part of this arrangement," Major Peipelman added, is that "even as a stand-alone MDG with dedicated funding, our connection to WHMC will continue in a new support capacity. Our design goal was to eliminate any duplication of services on Lackland, so what we built is really a unique organization."