JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
U.S. Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and 673d Air Base Wing commander, participated in the 673d Aerospace Medicine Squadron immersion tour at JBER, Alaska, Sept. 8, 2020.
Aguilar’s tour focused on getting to know the 673d AMDS mission and how their Airmen provide preventive medicine and operational support to the installation.
Immersions are a valuable asset for commanders to gain a full understanding and new perspective of their squadrons. This allowed the 673d AMDS to highlight their Airmen and their role in maintaining the installation’s mission.
“The intent of the immersion was to showcase how AMDS supports JBER in an unique way because we provide care for joint forces across the installation and face the many different challenges that come with each mission,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Matlock, 673d Medical Group enlisted executive assistant. “Our squadron provides medical, preventive medicine and operational support throughout the installation to prevent injuries and illnesses which could hinder the mission.”
Throughout her immersion, Aguilar visited Airmen to see exactly how they implement these preventive measures across the installation.
One of the sections Aguilar visited was the 673d AMDS Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight. The flight focuses on industrial hygiene, environmental health, radiation, and incident response. This includes routine water sampling, respirator fit tests, hazardous noise surveys, ventilation surveys, radiation dosimetry, air sampling, and the capability to respond to emergencies.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alex Shuttleworth, 673d AMDS Bioenvironmental Engineering craftsman, emphasized the importance of how the squadron helps the base complete the mission.
“Bioenvironmental engineering provides commanders with accurate Health Risk Assessments to help them understand the dangers that their Airmen face,” Shuttleworth said. “Bioenvironmental engineering even includes emergency response which involves working together with other units around base to protect the health and wellness of base personnel.”
Airmen in the section said they believed the immersion helped Aguilar understand their capabilities.
“I’m glad the commander visited our shop and visualized how we use our equipment and what our shop is able to accomplish,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Andrew Cantrell, a 673d AMDS bioenvironmental engineering apprentice. “I hope she can come back to our shop to see even more of what we can do.”
Another shop Aguilar stopped in was Public Health.
“Due to recent world events, one hears the name Public Health and automatically thinks ‘COVID-19’,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Moses McRae, 673d AMDS noncommissioned officer in charge of deployment medicine. “Our mission is to ensure a healthy, fit-to-fight force and promote a healthy, disease free community. Colonel Agular’s visit allowed us to show her one of the many different things that our job entails that are equally important to the mission of Public Health. It was great to show her some of the job duties within Public Health that a lot of people don’t know we do.”
Services offered through the Public Health flight are broken into two categories: Force Health Management and Community Health. In Force Health Management, the focus remains on ensuring that the military population is taken care of and fit-to-fight from an occupational health or deployment standpoint. Community Health focuses on the rest of the base population by conducting food and sanitary inspections as well as disease surveillance.
Additionally, Aguilar took the time to visit Health Promotion to learn about JBER’s health standards and needs moving forward.
Personnel assigned to the section noted it is vitally important for the commander to understand the installation’s baseline health.
“Having an accurate understanding of the overall health of the installation helps highlight the areas of opportunity for intervention and prevention,” said Sarah O'Neill, JBER Health Promotion coordinator. “It is absolutely vital that commanders are engaged in creating a healthy environment, as behavior change has been shown to be much more successful when a specific action plan is provided. Our primary goal is to provide population level education and influence in order to empower individuals to take charge of their own health to ultimately cultivate an installation that values all aspects of health.”
Marci McGill, 673d AMDS Health Promotion dietitian, noted the impact goes far beyond just the individual when it comes to health.
“With the high level strategic impact, influence and support the 673rd Air Base Wing provides to over 35,000 joint service members, dependents and veterans, health is a national safety concern as well as a public health concern,” McGill said. “We need to support and know that our active duty members are fit to fight, resilient and ready. The fitness and nutrition behaviors of our Airmen and soldiers can directly affect their readiness and resiliency resulting in poor performance on the job, meeting physical standards, mental resilience, and developing secondary health issues which further burden health.”
After spending the day with the 673d AMDS to explore their different sections, and to see how they help keep the base healthy and the mission going, Aguilar was able to understand the role they play in keeping the mission running.