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59th Medical Wing treating AF’s elite human weapons system

Capt. Jennifer Aspinwall, Occupational Therapy element leader with the 59th Medical Wing, assesses a tactical air control party student at the battle clinic on Medina Annex, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas June 30, 2016. Aspinwall has worked with battlefield Airmen since 2014.

Capt. Jennifer Aspinwall, an occupational therapy element leader with the 59th Medical Wing, assesses a tactical air control party student at the battle clinic at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, June 30, 2016. Aspinwall has worked with battlefield Airmen since 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Shannon Carabajal)

A Tactical Air Control Party instructor leads students during group calisthenics on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The 59th Medical Wing is supporting the Air Force’s new Battlefield Airmen Training Group produce elite, battle-ready combat warriors through a synergized, comprehensive systematic approach to health care. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Justine Rho)

A tactical air control party instructor leads students during group calisthenics on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. The 59th Medical Wing is supporting the Air Force’s new Battlefield Airmen Training Group produce elite, combat-ready Airmen through a synergized, comprehensive systematic approach to health care. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Justine Rho)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas (AFNS) -- Comprehensive, synergistic medical care from the 59th Medical Wing is helping produce elite, combat-ready Airmen here at the new Battlefield Airmen Training Group.

Much like in sports medicine and professional sports, when a player gets injured or needs care, the athlete is treated with a team approach and resources are leveraged to ensure a speedy recovery.

“Here, instead of caring for professional athletes, efforts have been geared toward meeting the needs of the most active, diverse and unique population in the Air Force -- our battlefield Airmen,” said Col. (Dr.) Karyn Condie, the 59th MDW chief of aerospace medicine.

“Ultimately, because battlefield Airmen are a human weapons system, their care is vital to our nation’s defense,” said Condie, who also directs the wing’s new health care initiative. “We had to adopt a new way of thinking when it came to health care for these Airmen. We had to ensure there are no delays in diagnoses or treatment.”

This complete human performance concept brings a fusion cell of athletic trainers, physical and occupational therapists, physical medicine technicians, physician’s assistants, flight medicine physicians and a sports medicine physician, who together provide a synergized, more comprehensive systematic approach to health care.

And ensuring ease of access to care and no delays in diagnosis is essential.

“While the students are in the pipeline, we have a 60-day window to evaluate, treat and move them through training,” said Capt. Jennifer Aspinwall, an occupational therapy element leader with the 59th MDW. “If a battlefield Airman gets injured during training, he’s going to see me today.”

The wing’s purpose is to treat injuries as soon as possible, but its goal is to prevent injuries from happening in the first place, according to Aspinwall.

“Through group prevention education we save the Air Force money but more importantly, we keep our valuable battlefield Airmen candidates holistically healthy,” she said.

The cadre in charge of the combat controllers, pararescuemen, and tactical air control party and special operations weather students consider 59th MDW medics critical to the group’s success.

“This influx of medical personnel has been critical to the success of our training mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Resendez, NCO in charge of the 350th Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron.

Athletic trainers who are embedded with special operations students here are able to provide on-the-spot treatment for minor injuries if a student happens to go down. Chronic injuries can be prevented by providing on-scene quick assessments.

In addition to identifying those students who require more specialized care, athletic trainers are also the first line of defense in preventing injuries. They can spot improper or risky training techniques.

“Because of such additions, the attrition rate for pararescuemen and tactical air control party Airmen has dropped from 90 to about 50 percent in less than a year’s time span,” Condie said.

The wing continues to perfect the human performance model and aims to have all medical staff working together in a newly renovated building by September, allowing for constant interaction among providers.

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