Into the Wild
Every year since 1995, Operation Arctic Care has provided free medical, dental, psychological, vision and veterinary care to Alaska's underserved communities. Resembling the type of collective effort needed in an international crisis, the annual two-week operation also prepares hundreds of service members for future humanitarian or disaster relief missions, making it the largest recurring joint medical and logistics training exercise in operation today. Long days, frigid temperatures and the logistics of coordinating the largest multibranch medical exercise in the military make this a daunting challenge.
The Guard Taking the Lead
This year's mission was conducted in April and led by the National Guard, commanding 285 service members from the Army National Guard, Air National Guard, Active Duty Army, Navy, Army Reserve and Navy Reserve. Alaska spearheaded the operation, with assistance from the Arizona National Guard and Colorado National Guard. "Every year, we participate because we provide the air support and [supplement] the teams," says Brigadier General Deborah McManus, director of the joint staff for Joint Forces Headquarters. "But this year we had the lead. It showed a lot of confidence in the National Guard."
Going the Extra Mile
Operation Arctic Care aimed to provide care to 16 Inuit villages this year, particularly in the Norton Sound area. (The program attends to various regions each year on a rotating basis.) Because of severe weather conditions, one of the villages couldn't be reached. But the medical teams still treated nearly 4,000 citizens, conducting more than 7,100 procedures. During this time, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters made multiple trips daily to fly supplies to the villages. The total value of the medical, dental, vision, psychological and veterinary services during the mission is estimated at more than $1.3 million.