• Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ken Stephens
  • 126th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
An Illinois Air National Guard unit provided two weeks of medical assistance during their annual training to an overseas U.S. Navy base.

The 126th Medical Group spent two weeks in Japan during the month of June supporting the Basic Health Center, Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi.

"This was a great opportunity for us not only to train but also provide service to patients," said Lt. Col. Wendell Becton. "We worked with the Navy before in San Diego, California, and were able to contact them again to find out where they could use some medical help this year."

The unique opportunity for the medical technicians from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, not only allowed them to work with their active duty counterparts from a sister service, but also to do tasks they couldn't train for at their home duty station.

Staff Sgt. Isha Bedenfield, a dental technician, said one such procedure was tooth extractions.

"As National Guard, we don't do wisdom teeth extractions during our monthly training weekends. Working at an active duty military base gave us the opportunity to do this," said Bedenfield.

With the extra help on hand, many of the Navy medical technicians planned training classes or vacation time. The Guard members felt ready to fill in and provide the necessary health care.

"We provided most of the general needs," said Senior Airman Allyssa Ridings, an optometry technician for the 126 ARW. "But we can handle it. It's what we've been training to do."

Even though Ridings and others received their medical training at Air Force schools, it didn't hinder them while working with the Navy hospital system.

"Since medical techniques and practices are the same no matter where you are, we can fit right in at any hospital or clinic," said Col. Eric Vaughn, a flight surgeon with the 126 ARW. "What we do is not service specific so we can go to work immediately."

Because the medical team started working right away, they helped meet a critical mission requirement without any gap in service.

The Navy requires annual flight physicals for all its pilots. Without a current physical on file, a pilot is restricted from flying.

"This is a critical component of a pilot's readiness," said Lt. Col. Jim Avery, another Air National Guard flight surgeon. "They require an annual physical health assessment to maintain their flying status."

Along with the pilots, many other patients seen at the clinic were also Navy personnel; however, there was also the civilian population of military dependents according to Airman 1st Class Jessica Borrowman, another optometry technician.

"At our home station we only see military patients. Here we get the opportunity to work with the dependents and other civilians from the base," said Borrowman.

In addition to vision care and physicals, the Guard unit also provided dental services, immunizations, and primary care for the base population according to the unit First Sergeant, Master Sgt. Heather Fleeger.

While there was much work to do during their visit to NAF Atsugi, the unit members also experienced the Japanese culture during their off duty time.

The group visited local restaurants and stores, and toured Tokyo and othe popular desitinations while they were here.