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120th Medical Group Commander Col. Mark Snyder.

120th Medical Group Commander Col. Mark Snyder.

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Greetings from the 120th Medical Group, home of the Big Sky Medics, the best medical group in the Air National Guard! If you haven't heard, the 120th MDG was recently recognized by the National Guard Bureau as being the number one medical group in the Air National Guard, out of 73 total medical units. We are proud to continue the tradition of the 120th Airlift Wing's outstanding performance in the execution of our many missions to serve the Montana Air National Guard, our state, and our nation.

The medical group is a dynamic organization of 62 dedicated professionals, made up predominantly of Drill Status Guardsmen and backed up by six full-time airmen, who hail from all over Montana and the surrounding states. Our mission is to be ready to serve our state and nation at a moment's notice, being fully trained to seamlessly step into any military medical mission with outstanding service and professionalism. In addition to constantly training to be at the tip of the medical spear, we also serve the Airmen of the 120th AW, the 219th Red Horse Squadron, and the Joint Forces Headquarters, to keep everyone medically ready and fit to Fly, Fight and Win.

As I have already mentioned, the members of the MTANG are cared for by the best medical group in the Air National Guard.  Recently, the NGB completed a year-long evaluation of all 73 medical units in the ANG, evaluating and tracking eight vital areas of medical group functions, training and support to their units. This evaluation was completed without the knowledge of the medical groups, which ensured that it would provide a true, real-time assessment of each unit's functioning outside of any formal inspection system. I was very proud, but not surprised in the least, when I learned that your Big Sky Medics have set the standard of excellence that all other medical units are compared against. We recently hosted representatives from the NGB, who came to recognize this achievement and to benchmark our processes for other units. So, next time you step into the medical group, or work with one of our Big Sky Medics, feel free to recognize their unsung efforts which were recently validated.

The medical group is not resting on its laurels, however, but continues its commitment to excellence in many ways. We will kick off a very busy training year by participating in two major training events, in addition to our normal, monthly duties. In February 2017, the Big Sky Medics will be heading off to Anniston, Ala., for a week-long training event at the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness. We will be receiving invaluable, cutting-edge FEMA-based, homeland response training in our Medical Homeland Defense Mission. This training will be custom-tailored for each AFSC, and will culminate in a large-group, disaster response exercise. This training will allow us to fine-tune and update our training for FEMA-based, homeland disaster response scenarios.

We will continue our busy training schedule by going to Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii in April 2017, for two weeks of integrative training at a major military medical center. This training opportunity will allow all Big Sky Medics to work side-by-side with their active duty counterparts. Training and working in a busy medical center is a vital part of medical group readiness, as we will get the opportunity to work in the settings where we would be activated to support, in any type of contingency when the nation asks us to step up and support our country's medical needs. This intensive medical training provides vital experience while allowing us to hone our military medical skill sets in a real-world setting.

Between these outstanding training opportunities, the medical group will continue to train for its missions and support the Airmen of the MTANG. Upcoming initiatives include the annual influenza immunization program, which will kick off this fall. All members, as usual, will be required to receive their vaccination by December 2016, or provide valid proof of a recognized vaccination method. We will be providing immunizations in the medical group as well as deploying "shot teams" throughout the wing this year, to accommodate the needs of the MTANG. One big difference this year will be that there will be no FluMist offered this year; everyone will be required to receive "the shot". The DoD, based on the Centers for Disease Control's recommendations, has mandated that the FluMist will not be an authorized method for immunization for this flu season. Bottom line: the CDC has determined that the FluMist immunizations for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 flu seasons were much less effective in protecting people from the influenza viruses than the injectable immunization. As of now, the CDC does not know why, but until that is worked out, the CDC recommends that everyone receive "the shot" this year to optimize protection against the flu.

Finally, another plug for keeping your Individual Medical Requirements (IMR) up-to-date. We serve in a fast-paced operational environment, receiving additional duties and taskings on a regular basis, in an era of shrinking fiscal resources to accomplish our many missions. Nothing reflects a wing's ability to be ready and relevant in these challenging times more basically than its level of IMR readiness. NGB and the DoD use this data to determine who is ready and fit to accomplish their mission. We all need to strive to keep our IMR status "in the green" by keeping our medical requirements up-to-date. The easiest way to keep on top of this is to keep your dental readiness current. We are all required to annually update our dental status. This can be easily done by having your dentist complete a DD Form 2813, then dropping it off at the medical group afterwards. Your dental status will be updated, and you may receive an additional retirement point for your efforts by submitting the completed NGB Form 105S. This form can be found on the Medical Group's SharePoint, or it can be picked up at the medical group as well.

We, the Big Sky Medics, are honored and proud to be part of the 120th AW and the MTANG. We look forward to taking care of our fellow Airmen and to be ready to serve in any capacity, anytime, anywhere.

Big Sky Medics: we'll take it from here!
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