By MARY JEAN HALL
Special to The Press
Around 200-300 military reservists and National Guard will arrive in July to offer free medical services to the Weakley County community.
The announcement was made at Thursday night’s county school board meeting when Colonel Jerry Arends, with the United States Air Force, requested to use a local school as base for the “Innovative Readiness Training.”
“The benefit to the community is millions of dollars worth of no-cost health care,” Arends said.
The military members will be representing all branches in order to train for natural disasters and serving overseas by providing free medical care to locals, including those who are underinsured or not insured at all.
Some of the medical services that will be offered include dental, optometry, general practice and behavioral services.
“We’re just really excited to partner with the United States Military Services and this medical training opportunity,” Director of Schools Randy Frazier said. “It’s an opportunity for our local citizens who need medical care… It’ll benefit our entire area.”
Arends said that some of the dental services would include filling cavities and tooth extraction. Eye exams will be offered and members from the Navy will be available to construct eyeglasses for those in need.
Locals will also have the opportunity to meet with a physician or nurse practitioner for needed medicinal questions. Behavioral services will include child psychology and chaplains. School physicals will also be offered.
“I have a big budget,”Arends said. “Another things I try to do is spread money around.”
Arends intends to contract with the local businesses for food, transportation and other services. With 200-300 reservists in the area for two weeks, Arands expects to spend a significant amount on groceries and in restaurants.
The program was done last summer in Alabama over a nine day period, and over 30,000 people were treated.
The program will not only benefit Weakley County, but the civilian soldiers, airmen, and sailors as well.
“We’re training to deploy,” Arends said. “Sometimes they are called on to simply activate very quickly and deploy for natural disasters.”
Arends hopes to use the local schools to the fullest capacity, and he is working with school officials to determine the involvement.
“When Colonel Arends called me, I became very excited… I think this is a win-win opportunity,” Frazier said.
According to the Innovative Readiness Training site, the energy behind the initiative came during President Bill Clinton’s call to “Rebuild America” and the National Defense Authorization Act for 1993. The program receives support from The Department of Defense, Congress, the states and communities.
Military officials will arrive with Arends on May 20 to determine all of the final details with Frazier and other county officials. The tentative dates for the program are July 9 through July 19.
Published in The WCP 5.7.13