Preventative Aerospace Medicine team deploys to Alabama

HAYNEVILLE, Ala. -- -- A four-person Preventative Aerospace Medicine (PAM) team deployed to this tiny, rural town May 2 as part of a larger mission to open a free medical clinic in this historically underserved community.

A PAM team's mission is to ensure that the Air Force's fighting men and women are able to fight. Historically, most military casualties -- even in wartime -- have been caused not by enemy action but by diseases and non-battle injuries. PAM team members monitor water and food supplies; ensure proper sewer and drainage; and help protect service members from other disease vectors, such as insects and other pests.

The team is one of several units currently participating in TOWN OF HAYNEVILLE 2011, a mission organized by the Department of Defense's Innovative Readiness Training program. This program brings Guard and Reserve members from around the country together to get needed training, primarily in medical and civil engineering fields. The teams train on real-world projects, in this case opening a temporary medical clinic offering medical, dental, vision and mental-health care to area residents.

Half of the 70 participants in TOWN OF HAYNEVILLE 2011 -- including the PAM team -- are members of the Alaska Air National Guard's 176th Medical Group. The other half are drawn from a variety of military units around the country.

On this mission, the PAM team has two responsibilities. First, to ensure the health and safety of the deployed members; and second, to offer their services to the local town government.

The team comprises two sections, bioenvironmental engineering and public health. The bioenvironmental specialists have tested the town's water supply for chlorine levels, and inspected the wastewater facilities to ensure they are in compliance with federal permits.

"They don't have the equipment they need to do this stuff, and were paying for it out-of-pocket," said Maj. Rick Rymerson, a bioenvironmental engineer and the leader of the mission's PAM team.

The public health technicians have focused on food sanitation and handling, visiting a day care facility, a senior center and the town's grocery store to share proper food handling techniques. They have also delivered presentations focused on preventing the spread of diseases.

"I was quite excited that most of the kids that we talked to knew about handwashing and how to properly sneeze -- the whole 'sneeze in your sleeve' campaign," said Master Sgt. Tiffany Gregory, a public health technician.

"It's been absolutely wonderful having them here," said Ronnie Daniels, the town's project manager. "They've been a huge, huge help."

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