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Diverse mission simple motive: 72nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron focuses on people

Flight surgeon Capt. Seth Cohen and medical technician Staff Sgt. Irene Williams are part of the flight medicine team who sees to the health needs of approximately 2,000 flight crew members at Tinker. Flight Medicine also responds to every in-flight emergency called on base. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Flight surgeon Capt. Seth Cohen and medical technician Staff Sgt. Irene Williams are part of the flight medicine team who sees to the health needs of approximately 2,000 flight crew members at Tinker. Flight Medicine also responds to every in-flight emergency called on base. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Airman 1st Class Angia Camp adjusts earphones before a hearing test in an audiology testing booth of the Public Health Flight. The flight handles everything “from AIDS to zucchini” says commander Maj. Juan Ramirez, of their responsibilities. The fight acts similarly to a state health department and works jointly with off base agencies in tracking and reporting health information. They have been a focal point for base H1N1 vaccinations, check food safety in all base establishments, monitor mosquito populations here and even do a “tick drag” at the Glenwood Training Area to tell where to spray before exercises. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Airman 1st Class Angia Camp adjusts earphones before a hearing test in an audiology testing booth of the Public Health Flight. The flight handles everything “from AIDS to zucchini” says commander Maj. Juan Ramirez, of their responsibilities. The fight acts similarly to a state health department and works jointly with off base agencies in tracking and reporting health information. They have been a focal point for base H1N1 vaccinations, check food safety in all base establishments, monitor mosquito populations here and even do a “tick drag” at the Glenwood Training Area to tell where to spray before exercises. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Teaching flight crew members how to handle airsickness is a responsibility of Flight Medicine.  A Barany chair spins a crew member poised in various positions to simulate motions during flight.  Staff Sgt. Isabel Brooks, the NCOIC of Human Performance, instructs the person to focus on a fixed point during a spin in the chair.  Overcoming motion sickness is vital for air crews, teaching them to trust their instruments and not what the human senses tell them. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Teaching flight crew members how to handle airsickness is a responsibility of Flight Medicine. A Barany chair spins a crew member poised in various positions to simulate motions during flight. Staff Sgt. Isabel Brooks, the NCOIC of Human Performance, instructs the person to focus on a fixed point during a spin in the chair. Overcoming motion sickness is vital for air crews, teaching them to trust their instruments and not what the human senses tell them. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

During deployment readiness exercises, Immunizations personnel take their vaccines to the mobility processing line.  Staff Sgt. Tiffany Gordon administers a nasal flu mist to a deploying Airman. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

During deployment readiness exercises, Immunizations personnel take their vaccines to the mobility processing line. Staff Sgt. Tiffany Gordon administers a nasal flu mist to a deploying Airman. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight personnel are called when the identity and threat level of an unknown substance needs to be identified during emergencies. While a wide protective area is secured around an exercise scene, as in a real life emergency, samples of the suspicious substance are gathered for testing by flight personnel in protective gear. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight personnel are called when the identity and threat level of an unknown substance needs to be identified during emergencies. While a wide protective area is secured around an exercise scene, as in a real life emergency, samples of the suspicious substance are gathered for testing by flight personnel in protective gear. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Approximately 600 patients a month come to the Optometry Clinic of the 72nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron. Maj. Judy Rattan uses a slit lamp to look at the structures of an eye. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

Approximately 600 patients a month come to the Optometry Clinic of the 72nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron. Maj. Judy Rattan uses a slit lamp to look at the structures of an eye. (Air Force photo by Margo Wright)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- It's all about the patients when it comes down to it.

That's the driving force behind the 72nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Tinker, and it shows.

"What gets us coming back to work every day is the patients," said 72nd AMDS commander Col. James Ice. "I recently gave a speech to the Veterans Administration and I said that veterans are the reason why I'm here. I have a job where I get to take care of my heroes. It's that simple."

The motivation may be simple, but the squadron's diverse mission is far from it and has their personnel spread out in several locations.

The squadron has the responsibility of doing tasks from fitting glasses to administering immunizations to performing hearing protection checks on site. When one considers the broad expertise of the 72nd AMDS, its base-wide impact becomes clear.

"Diversity is part of what's most interesting about the squadron," Colonel Ice said. "In some way, shape or form the squadron touches everyone here on base."

Six flights fulfill these duties, staffed by 134 people: Flight Medicine, Public Health, Bio-environmental Engineering, Occupational Medicine, the Optometry Clinic and Health and Wellness Center.

Above all, the most difficult thing is conducting the Individual Medical Readiness checks for some 7,000 active duty personnel on base. And for deploying Airmen, they also have to process through the halls of the AMDS, Colonel Ice said.

"Every single deployer comes through us," Colonel Ice said. "We are the first stop and we're the last stop. We make sure everyone works safely. We make sure everyone stays healthy, and if they're not healthy, we get them healthy. We take care of their family members so they're not worrying about their family members when they're supposed to be fighting the war."

Thanks to new facilities that are under construction, these medical services will be even better, at the squadron and group level, Colonel Ice said, while highlighting cooperation across the group.

"We've tried to make a point throughout the group that our slogan is 'four squadrons, one medical group,'" Colonel Ice said. "We are one team here and fully dependent on each other."

"The biggest advantages will be for the people we take care of," Colonel Ice said of the new 170,000 square-foot facility. "They'll enter into a big, modern clinic building. We'll have nice, new work space, new equipment. From our end it will be very nice and for everyone who works in our building."

The med group should move into the new facilities located on the south side of the base in the fall of 2011.

While quality care ranks as a top mission goal, there's only so much even the best of health care providers can do for their patients. With this in mind, the squadron has an ultimate goal that transcends the walls of any medical building.

"For us it's about prevention, we want to educate people so they can take care of themselves," Colonel Ice said.