JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — U.S. Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and 673d Air Base Wing commander, participated in the 673d Surgical Operations Squadron immersion tour at JBER, Alaska, Sept. 29, 2020.
The SGCS offers surgical specialty capability for general surgery, orthopedics, podiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, urology, otorhinolaryngology, ophthalmology, wound care and comprehensive pain management. The tour highlighted the Airmen at each of its sections who care for patients, but also incorporated Airmen who work behind the scenes, such as decontamination.
Junior enlisted members of each unit not only briefed the commander on their sections’ contributions to the mission, but also set up short hands-on demonstrations for Aguilar to experience first hand what they do.
“Our big goal with the tour was to highlight what our staff does on a day-to-day basis and show how much experience and expertise we have within our squadron,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jilleen Charette, 673d SGCS operating room registered nurse. “Having the commander tour our squadron reminds Airmen they are important to the mission and it’s recognized by leadership.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Hannah Jackson, 673d SGCS Women’s Health clinic technician, said she appreciated Aguilar’s visit and that the commander taking time to learn about her clinic inspired her.
“Colonel Aguilar’s immersion tour is important not only to me but other Airmen as well because she has carved out an entire day to spend with the Surgical Operations Squadron,” said Jackson. “After all, ‘The highest form of human act is to inspire,’ and that’s what she is doing by visiting with us on this immersion tour, inspiring us Airmen to do more, learn more, and become more.”
Clinics were also able to show the ways they are innovating and using new technologies. The ophthalmology clinic, for example, has the capabilities to perform corrective eye surgeries such as LASIK and refractive eye surgery for active duty personnel. The clinic is also able to perform implantable collamer lens (ICL) surgery. Airmen who would otherwise be medically disqualified for eye complications can potentially meet the requirements for this surgery and still be able to serve.
“We want people to know we are here and people can get their surgery done.” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Simon Arnold, 673d SGCS ophthalmology technician. “This is a great opportunity for them because not every base has this capability, and on the outside this surgery would cost service members thousands of dollars.” “It’s a huge benefit to the warfighter because if you’re down range and something happens to your glasses, you can’t tell friend from foe, so it’s huge for the military in general for readiness.”
Immersions allow commanders to not only understand the capabilities of the squadrons under their command, but also to meet the Airmen who keep the mission going. The SGCS immersion tour checks off as Agulair’s fifth immersion tour since taking command July 14, 2020.