New Hampshire Guardsmen help bring medical care to Eastern Kentucky

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Thomas Johnson
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

Close to 600 citizens from Eastern Kentucky received health care through clinics set up by the Kentucky National Guard in conjunction with the Naval Reserve along with state and local governmental agencies during Operation Bobcat, June 13 – 27, 2018.
OPERATION BOBCAT is an Innovative Readiness Training  Event with the operation providing military forces with crucial expeditionary training while offering no-cost medical, dental and optometry care to area residents. 

Maj Robert D. Groves, an optometrist, assigned to the 157th Medical Group, Pease Air National Guard Base, N.H., Maj. Ryan M. Tannian, a pharmacist and Tech Sgt. Eric Low, a Biomedical Engineering and Equipment Technician, both assigned to the Detachment 1 of the 157th MDG, have all volunteered for this operation.

Tannian, a traditional Guardsman who also works as a pharmacist in his civilian occupation, reflected on the importance of the operation.

“The goal in providing care to the people of Kentucky is aimed at the most vulnerable populations,” said Tannian. “These are the patients that often times fall through the cracks. Estill County is one of the poorest counties in the state but also has one of the unhealthiest populations in the state.”

The skills developed in the private sector and as Guardsman are critical to the completion of the missions the airman are assigned to.

“My civilian job treats both chronically ill and acute patients across New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont," said Tannian.  “My civilian job has exposed to me the practice of rural healthcare which is very similar to OPERATION BOBCAT.  My job responsibilities [during the operation] are to maintain a pharmacy with a limited formulary of medications to treat acute conditions. Additionally, I have been counseling patients on the safe and effective use of their medications at home, as well as educating patients about safe drug and needle disposal.”

Low, a full-time member of the Air National Guard, took his skills as a medical equipment technician  and applied them to one of the goals of the operation by keeping the limited medical equipment in optimal condition to support the high number of patients.

“I definitely feel this goal was met,” said Low. “Being limited in resources and equipment forced us to think of alternate ways to get the job done.” 

“The local population is very supportive, welcoming and appreciative of the services we have been providing,” said Tannian. 

Improving readiness and collaboration between the emergency response teams is critical to the National Guard remaining an effective emergency response force.

 “Working jointly with the USNR has been very educational and has given me the opportunity to brief them on the ANG and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear  Response Force Package, but also to be briefed about the USNR capabilities and [its} processes, said Tannain.  "I would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to attend an IRT to do so."