SAN DIEGO –
The Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Medical Group, 192nd Wing, sent 17 members to California to complete their Medical Facility Annual Training Aug. 22–Sept. 2, 2023, at Naval Medical Center San Diego.
MFAT is a National Guard unit-funded program that has a dual purpose. The goal is for National Guard personnel to assist active duty personnel who may be short staffed and in need of additional help, while also allowing the participants to complete their required training and sign off on various medical training skills. From medics to physicians, everyone is provided the opportunity to receive the training they need.
“Many people got a chance to do taskings that they don’t get to do in their civilian jobs,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Handegard, 192nd MDG Det-1 commander. “Some of our mental health techs work in outpatient mental health careers, but they worked in the inpatient mental health ward for this training.”
Airman 1st Class April Bennett, 192nd MDG behavioral health technician, was one of those individuals.
“I am particularly proud of the robust experience MFAT provided while working at the Naval Medical Center,” said Bennett. “The training allowed me to satisfy several career field and Education Training Plan requirements that contribute toward my progression from a three-skill level to a five-skill level.”
The 192nd MDG worked within the intensive care unit, emergency room, physical therapy department, pharmacy, patient administration, the family practice at Naval Branch Health Clinic on Naval Base Coronado and in dental at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
“I’ve gained some of the most valuable skills during my time in San Diego due to the hands-on experience working with patients,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Brennan, a 192nd MDG aerospace medical technician who worked in the hospital’s ICU. “My entire military career has focused extensively on emergency and combat medicine. Working with the ICU team, I was able to really get back to the basics of the nursing side of my AFSC [Air Force Specialty Code]. It was very welcomed.”
The team worked closely with the hospital staff which consisted of Navy personnel and civilians. This opportunity not only improved the team’s technical skills but also tested their adaptability, resiliency, and their ability to work as a team.
“Our members don’t work together on a day-to-day basis,” said Handegard. “Sometimes they don’t even work together during drill because we’ll have drills at separate locations. So to watch our members come together and settle into their clinics, know their roles, and not be afraid to ask questions and learn new skills, was amazing to see. I was proud to watch everyone maintain a really positive attitude and be the ultimate professionals I knew that they were.”
Not only did the team remain positive, they showed just how resilient they could be before the training could even begin. One of the biggest obstacles for this year’s MFAT was Hurricane Hilary, a Category 4 Pacific hurricane that affected the Pacific Coast of Mexico, the Baja California Peninsula and the Southwestern United States. Although the hurricane delayed the mission for two days, the medics were ready to jump right into action from the moment they landed and were eager to not only work with each other but with the other branches as well.
“As with any joint training, it is always a wonderful thing to see the different branches come together and work seamlessly,” said Brennan. “Seeing the Air Force assimilate so well to being at a Navy Command and the Navy welcoming us so fervently with open arms should make all the branches feel relieved that joint operations only make us a better, stronger and a more effective military.”