Wing takes lead in ARTIC CARE 2007
By Master Sgt. Patricia Hughes, 177FW/SGP; photos by
Tech. Sgt. Daniel Opperman, 177FW/MG
Its eleven thirty at night and we have got to get to bed; it’s
going to be a busy day tomorrow. But the sun is still shining high in
the sky. Alaska: land of the midnight sun
-where the sun really does hardly ever set.
For nearly two weeks, members of the 177th Fighter Wing Medical Group
along with several other Air Guard and active duty Air Force providers
participated in the Navy’s annual ARCTIC CARE 2007 mission.
The purpose of this deployment was two-fold. First, it was to provide
critical cold weather training to medical personnel and second, to provide
care to the Inupiat residents in the remote villages of the Northwest
Arctic Borough of Alaska. This year’s goal was to provide 10 villages,
each with a population of approximately 500 to 1,000 Inupiats, living
just above the Arctic Circle, with medical, dental, optometric and health
education. More important, this was a critical mission for 177th members
because it is scheduled to be transitioned from a Navy to an Air National
Guard mission in 2008.
The 177th medical team learned firsthand the importance of this dual
purpose mission, where we were stationed in two different villages,
Selawik and Noorvik. The team provided medical, dental, public health
education and public health interventions while we were there.
Lt. Col. Robert DeSipio was the commander of the medical team deployed
to Selawik. Selawik was one of two villages chosen to be visited by
Pentagon, National Guard Bureau and Alaska National Guard leadership.
During those 10 very cold days (down to minus 41 degrees on one day)
we saw approximately 200 to 300 medical and 100 to 200 dental patients.
Every child in the village of Selawik had at least one public health
presentation in a classroom setting.
All members of the medical team left changed by the experiences of meeting
fellow Americans who were so appre¬ciative of our efforts. We felt
that we had made a difference, by not only warming their hearts but
ours in return.