Ensuring health of force critical element of Soldier readiness
Story by Staff Sgt. Michael Carden, Ohio National Guard
COLUMBUS, Ohio (12/03/19)
Members of the Ohio National Guard are required to respond at a moment’s notice, whether for a local emergency, a state response to disaster or a federal deployment. That means they need to be prepared, no matter the mission. Military medical professionals play a major role in ensuring Soldiers are ready.
“Medical readiness is making sure the Guard can supply a force that can serve without limitations,” said Capt. Erin Rinto, a field surgeon with the 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment. “We make sure that they are healthy enough to be sent to an austere environment with limited resources, and they can do whatever job they need to do.”
Soldiers are required to attend an annual periodic health assessment (PHA) to confirm their overall health and to address any issues they may have. Medical professionals check each Soldier’s vision, vitals, hearing and dental. Soldiers who need blood work or immunizations are also taken care of. For serious issues, case managers are on hand to coordinate follow up services, either with military or civilian health care providers.
“The PHA sets the standard for whether a Soldier can deploy or not,” said Sgt. Natalie Flory, a health care noncommissioned officer with the Ohio Army National Guard Medical Detachment. “Without knowing their physical health, we can’t send a Soldier overseas.”
PHAs are not just for a Soldier’s physical health. Behavioral health officers are available to address Soldiers’ needs, not just in uniform, but for their everyday lives.
“Even though we are here to make sure they are ready for deployment, we are also dealing with real-world issues,” said 1st Lt. Miranda Blackburn, a behavioral science officer with the 371st Sustainment Brigade. “We provide intervention for things they are struggling with, making sure they are the best person and the best Soldier they can be.”
Units are scheduled for PHAs, with some larger units having multiple iterations spread out over the course of the year to ensure every Soldier can see medical personnel without adversely impacting a unit’s ongoing missions and training. A typical PHA, typically conducted in one day of a weekend drill, can include multiple units, with sometimes hundreds of Soldiers being seen in a single day. Regardless, the Soldiers running the event take the time to focus on each individual.
“Their job is to be ready and it’s our job to make sure that they are,” Rinto said. “If there is a problem or an issue, we want to know so we can help them.”