Bird’s Eye View – Commander’s Comments October 2016

Wigal, Vonda, Col 20150129 8x10

Col. Vonda Wigal, commander, 184th Medical Group

The 184th Medical Group participated in a humanitarian outreach civic action trip to Armenia in August. Thirty-six members participated in the medical training trip, lodging in hospital rooms and working side-by-side with Armenian medical professionals. The total force team consisted of various medical specialties from the 184th, and we were privileged to have three British Army 6th Battalion combat medics join us for the trip. This was a unique trip for the medical group as the organization typically conducts its annual training at established U.S. military treatment facilities. However, this also wasn’t a typical humanitarian treatment mission, as we did not treat patients en masses as we did in 2004’s Tacna, Peru, trip. The goal this year was for the medical group to become integrated with Armenian medical professionals, for medical training and cultural exchange, so that the long term benefits could continue once we departed.

One of our challenges on the trip came with the cultural and language barriers. The interpreters were integral in helping us with these barriers so that the knowledge exchange could happen with patient care and teaching. It was very evident of how adaptable the Armenians are to their work environment, as there was a panic call one day for flashlights so that they could complete a Caesarean section when they lost power in the hospital. This was one of many challenges that they faced on a daily basis and that the Armenian staff easily overcame. Their resiliency and determination was evident during these times.

Several of the highlights for the trip were visiting the orphanage and children’s rehabilitation centers in each town, and teaching the children about simple hygiene. Seeing the looks on their faces and the fun exchange between the children and adults proved to be a culture building experience.

This State Partnership Program trip was a learning experience for all team members, including the phenomenal working relationship that developed with the three British members. As with many Air National Guard experiences, this was a trip that solidified the many varied opportunities that a guardsman can have. It is these kinds of experiences that makes me proud to be an Air National Guardsman!