JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas –
Comprehensive, synergistic medical care from the 59th Medical Wing is helping produce the Air Force’s elite, battle-ready combat warriors here at the new Battlefield Airmen Training Group.
Much like in sports medicine and professional sports, when a player gets injured or needs care, the athlete is treated with a team approach and resources are leveraged to ensure a speedy recovery.
“Here, instead of caring for professional athletes, efforts have been geared toward meeting the needs of the most active, diverse and unique population in the Air Force – our battlefield Airmen,” said Col. (Dr.) Karyn Condie, 59th MDW chief of aerospace medicine.
“Ultimately, because battlefield Airmen are a human weapons system, their care is vital to our nation’s defense,” said Condie, who is also director of the new 59th MDW health care initiative.
“We had to adopt a new way of thinking when it came to health care for these Airmen. We had to ensure there are no delays in diagnoses or treatment,” she added.
This complete human performance concept brings a fusion cell of athletic trainers, physical and occupational therapists, physical medicine technicians, physician’s assistants, flight medicine physicians and a sports medicine physician, who together provide a synergized, more comprehensive systematic approach to health care.
And ensuring ease of access to care and no delays in diagnosis is essential.
“While the students are in the pipeline, we have a 60-day window to evaluate, treat, and move them through training,” said Capt. Jennifer Aspinwall, 59th MDW Occupational Therapy element leader. “If a battlefield Airman gets injured during training, he’s going to see me today.”
Our purpose is to treat injuries as soon as possible, but our goal is to prevent injuries from happening in the first place,” said Aspinwall.
“Through group prevention education we save the Air Force money but more importantly, we keep our valuable battlefield Airmen candidates holistically healthy,” she added.
The cadre in charge of the combat controllers, pararescuemen, and tactical air control party and special operations weather students consider 59th MDW medics critical to the group’s success.
“This influx of medical personnel has been critical to the success of our training mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Resendez, NCO in charge of the 350th Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron.
Athletic trainers who are embedded with Special Forces students here are able to provide on-the-spot treatment for minor injuries if a student happens to go down. Chronic injuries can be prevented by providing on-scene quick assessments.
In addition to identifying those students who require more specialized care, athletic trainers are also the first line of defense in preventing injuries. They can spot improper or risky training techniques.
“Because of such additions, the attrition rate for pararescuemen and tactical air control party Airmen has dropped from 90 to about 50 percent in less than a year’s time span,” Condie said.
The wing continues to perfect the human performance model and aims to have all medical staff working together in a newly renovated building by September, allowing for constant interaction among providers. For more information about the 59th MDW, visit www.59mdw.af.mil.