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

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.