Unit Spotlight: 52nd Medical Operations Squadron

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rusty Frank
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Each of the 52nd Medical Group's squadrons serve a purpose, and work congruently to help accomplish the group's mission. The Airmen of the 52nd Medical Operations Squadron provide the nucleus of the medical group.

"We really are the heartbeat of the medical treatment facility, because we provide all the clinics that actually see the patients," said Lt. Col. Michele Shelton, 52nd MDOS commander. "If you were to compare us to an operations group, inside the operations group you have the different flying squadrons, which are operations and then you have the operations support squadrons. They are the ones that support the flyers with their flight crew training or their supplies and equipment. We are the operations side of the MTF; we would be like the flyers."

More than 93 of active-duty enlisted, officers, local nationals, and contractors comprise the 52nd MDOS. All of these medical Airmen allow the squadron to offer many different services for the base, including the family health clinic; pediatrics clinic; women's health clinic, which is a specialty service; physical therapy clinic and mental health services. Three different areas encompass mental health include the alcohol and drug prevention and treatment program; the mental health clinic, which has a psychiatrist and multiple psychologists; and family advocacy; together, they encompass the prevention outreach program.

All of these clinics face different challenges, such as fighting a perception of a career-ending stigma about their services and when technicians have to refer patients off-base because the clinic does not offer a particular service.

"The biggest challenge is the stigma of mental health, ADAPT or family advocacy and the rumors that exist about what each of these different agencies do or the career impact that they may have," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Ruchie, a 52nd MDOS mental health craftsman. "The real fact of the matter is if you utilize these resources as appropriate and as they are intended, we are here to help your career, not end it. The most important thing is the individual. If we are helping you, that lines up right with the mission."

Even with the challenges of fighting stereotypes, working in a medical squadron does present some uniqueness flights in the 52nd MDOS receive.

"One of the things that make the Family Health flight unique is that we get to see a lot of the base population," said Airman 1st Class Samuel Purser, a 52nd Medical Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician.

From family practice to mental health, all of these clinics help keep Airmen physically and mentally fit as a part of Comprehensive Airman Fitness.

"We have tons and tons of metrics that track the overall fitness of the medical group," Shelton said. "That is what the wing commander wants to know; is my wing medically ready to go. The aerospace medicine squadron provides that information, but, as a squadron, the providers in my clinics help to say this person is medically ready, or not, depending on what their condition is."

With helping the men and women of the base, the squadron helps support the mission pillars of the 52nd Fighter Wing by reaching out to the community outside the gate.

"We work very well with our host nation providers, because we are not a hospital and there are services that we just do not provide," Shelton said. "We build upon those host nation relationships, whether they are physicians, physical therapists, or radiology. It could be in Landstuhl or here within the local area with Wittlich, Trier and the Krankenhaus at Bitburg. When I think about what our over-arching mission statement is, we build healthy communities, maximize readiness, and deliver medical excellence."

Shelton said that the mission of the MDOS lines up with mission of the entire 52nd Medical Group.

"As an MDOS, because we are the pulse or the heartbeat of the medical group, I personally believe our mission statement should not be any different," she said. "As a commander, I have established a squadron philosophy to hit home to everyone that our job is mission first, people always."