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Cherokee Nation IRT

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Victoria Nelson
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing

New Hampshire National Guardsmen teamed up with local community organizations along with Soldiers, Airmen, and Sailors from across the nation to accomplish a two-week dual mission in Cherokee Nation, OK June 4-18, 2022.

The Airmen, Soldiers and Guardsmen optimized their mission with hands-on skill development in both medical and civil engineering career fields while serving members of Cherokee Nation.

Medical specialists set up a clinic inside the Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, OK and offered dentistry services, physical exams, optometry and pharmaceutical care at no cost to members of the local community.

“When you bring people together regardless of background, rank or service branch when it comes to medicine there is a common goal,” said Maj. Michelle Mastrobattista, the officer in charge of the Medical IRT mission from the 157th Medical Group. “I think it’s remarkable to see the barriers come down, the collaboration and the creativity this opportunity provides just like a deployed situation but we get to really give back.”

Rebecca Shepherd, the senior director of nursing for Cherokee Nation Health Services, agreed and said providing healthcare to the under-served in her community is important to the local staff as well.

“Instead of just training for training this is a way for them to come and assist others while getting the hands-on experience they need,” she explained. “We all have the common goal of taking care of people.”

Jean Parker, a local daycare provider, came to the clinic with her daughter and son-in-law. They all received treatment in each section of the clinic and thanked all of the health care professionals.

“I am so grateful to be here today,” she said. “Everyone was so helpful and really took care of me and my family.”

Less than one mile away from the clinics, another joint group of Soldiers and Airmen are building houses for homeless Cherokee Nation veterans. The housing program is a three-year contract to build 21 houses total. The furnishing and brick masonry are contracted out to local civilians and the civil engineers build the rest from the foundation up.

“It’s pretty cool to have a mission that gives back to the local veteran community,” said Master Sgt. Tyler Hone, a power productions supervisor with 124th Civil Engineering Squadron. “We have a lot of hard working guys that have been excited to train on a joint mission with tangible products for veterans in need.”

“I joined the Guard pretty late in life,” he added. “It just felt right to give back and serve. This mission is exactly what I signed up to do and hoped to do as an Air National Guardsman.”

Army and Air Guardsmen also had the opportunity to ride along with paramedics from Emergency Medical Services Authority in Tulsa, OK.

“There are a lot of things here with EMS our military members get to see and experience that they wouldn’t be able to in their military training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gareth Wilson, the first sergeant of the Cherokee Nation IRT from the 120th Medical Company Area Support. “It’s a great exchange of information and awesome to see our Guard members expanding their knowledge, experience and capabilities.”

This IRT mission marks the first of the combination of the joint efforts. Patients, civilian providers and service members all expressed their gratitude for being a part of the Cherokee Nation mission.

“Being citizen Guardsmen and serving our community is what we do,” said Wilson. “To see the benefits on both ends and the cultural experiences our young Soldiers and Airmen receive in return is amazing.”