FORT BLISS, Texas – Some Airmen dedicate their lives to protecting and defending; others dedicate their lives to healing and saving the lives of those who do.
Medical support staff from the Air Force Security Forces Center’s Detachment 3 Medical Aid Station undertake this mission. The six medics attached to Desert Defender, the AFSFC’s Ground Combat Readiness Training Center at Fort Bliss, provide continuous medical care for about 150 permanently assigned personnel and the more than 4,000 students who train here every year.
The embedded medical team includes two enlisted Independent Duty Medical Technicians, or IDMTs, who are trained to deliver lifesaving medical care in field or combat conditions. This gives the training center the leverage it needs to efficiently train and equip security forces Defenders across the Total Force.
“As a primary care facility, our job here at Fort Bliss is to support the Air Force security forces training mission by delivering medical services and meeting the individual medical requirements that students and staff members depend on,” said Master Sgt. Irene Alajmi, AFSFC Det. 3 Medical Aid Station flight chief.
On-site IDMTs also provide real-time medical care to students and staff who require immediate attention.
“We are trained and equipped to provide the ambulatory medical care students may need when training in the field. But if there is ever a situation when a Defender’s injuries or illness require more than we can provide, ambulances are on-hand to get the patient immediate medical care,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Gomez, one of two IDMTs assigned to the unit.
Senior Master Sgt. Brian Unger, Desert Defender’s NCO in charge of Mobility Operations, understands the significance of having an Air Force medical treatment facility at the detachment.
“The support we get from the medical team is the best we could ask for. It’s what keeps our Defenders in the fight and focused, ready to finish out the fundamental pre-deployment base defense training instilled by the Air Force’s largest security forces readiness training center,” said Unger.
The importance of having an embedded medical unit was never more apparent than during the COVID pandemic. Despite a high volume of students, training continued primarily because the medical staff was well prepared to handle new COVID cases and mitigate the spread of the virus within the schoolhouse.
Last year alone, more than 4,500 students attended courses at the detachment. Almost 200 of them tested positive during training despite health and safety protocols, which required all students to test negative before arriving at the training center.
“We took care of numerous Airmen who tested positive for COVID during the pandemic. Our primary goal was protecting the schoolhouse, Airmen, cadre and students alike, so that unaffected students could continue their training,” said Gomez. “Providing proper medical care and following strict guidelines and protocols reduced the risk of exposure. This allowed the detachment’s vital training mission to continue throughout the crisis.
“Our role in keeping the training mission going was a victory for everyone in the detachment. Being able to support the Defenders going downrange is the best part of our job here, and knowing that what we do is vital to the Air Force security forces training mission makes us proud,” said Alajmi. “We know we’re part of something bigger. Keeping the Defenders healthy and ready for the challenges they will face makes what we do all worth it.”
(Editor's Note: Joe Bela, AFIMSC Public Affairs, contributed to this article.)