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Reserve medical team helping hospital on Blackfoot Indian Reservation

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio -- Seventeen Air Force reservists from the 445th Aerospace Medical Squadron left July 7 for Browning, Mont., to train and provide care for Native Americans at the Blackfeet Community Hospital. 

The mission for the 445 AMDS is part of Air Force Reserve Command's Innovation Readiness Training program, which allows reservists to receive training while rendering assistance to communities in the United States. 

"Reservists will work in several areas of the hospital," said Tech. Sgt. Courtney McGuire, who helped organize this trip. "We have a dentist and dental technicians, lab technicians and medical technicians who are EMT qualified going along with medical administrative technicians." 

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation, which is on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains covers 1.4 million acres. Browning is the seat of tribal government and has about 8,500 tribal members live on or near the reservation. Blackfeet Native Americans got their name from the black color of their moccasins, which were painted or darkened by prairie fires. 

"This is our third time to Browning for training and helping at the community hospital" said Sergeant McGuire. "It's only a 25 bed hospital and we'll be augmenting the work force there." 

Recruiting medical professionals to work on the reservation is difficult because of the harsh winters, location and the low paying salaries. Military medical units step in to help fill that void. 

"I like going on this type of humanitarian mission because they're always rewarding," said the sergeant. 

Deployment commander Capt. Chris Russell stated this was different for him.
"This is my first time for this," said Captain Russell, referring to deploying to an Indian reservation. "I've been on humanitarian tours to El Salvador and Honduras, but not to an Indian Reservation Hospital." 

"The experience and opportunity of doing something different and unique is something you can take back home," said the captain. "I prefer these humanitarian tours over going to a base hospital where I might not be needed." 

The medical team is scheduled to return later this month.