DOVER, DE, UNITED STATES
Story by Maj. Nicole M Reigelman
DOVER, Delaware — Napoleon is credited with observing that “An Army marches on its stomach” – underscoring the important role that suitable provisions like food have played in executing military operations for centuries.
The same holds true today – just ask the 16-member team who planned, ordered, prepared and served nearly 5,000 meals to more than 215 military service members participating in the Central Delaware Partnership for Hope, an Innovative Readiness Training (IRT) project where service members offered no-cost health care to members of the Dover community.
IRT is a Department of Defense program that enables military personnel to reinforce their skills, improve their readiness, and strengthen ties to the community by collaborating with local partners to benefit communities across the country.
During the Dover project — dubbed a “health care blitz” by the local community — members of the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve and Navy Reserve, delivered medical care like eye exams, dental exams, and behavioral health and nutrition consultations to community members free of charge.
Treating thousands of patients easily qualified the event as a success, but it was also a valuable training and readiness opportunity for the small teams of Services and Personnel Support for Contingency Operations (PERSCO) guardsmen who ensured that health care providers were housed, fed and prepared for work each day.
As the Partnership for Hope Services officer-in-charge, Pennsylvania Air National Capt. Matt Robinson led the Services and PERSCO teams, which included Army and Air Guard members from Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Maryland.
Robinson said executing the mission successfully required several months of planning and coordination that started in late 2020. Planning occurred largely via teleconference with the exception of three in-person meetings, which Robinson said was challenging, but the extended timeline provided his team of drill status guardsmen (DSG) the opportunity to take ownership of the project and lead on tasks that would traditionally be managed by full-time staff, like selecting recipes and coordinating the menu.
“It was rewarding to see our Airmen and Soldiers join together and work effectively as a team after only a few days on-site,” Robinson said. “It was also great to see everyone apply the skills they’d been refining for months or years in a real world operation that benefitted the community.”
Aside from the team focused on meal preparation and service, two Airmen served on a PERSCO team. PERSCO was responsible for coordinating transportation to and from the Philadelphia airport for service members and medical equipment, providing each member with an operational briefing upon arrival, ensuring daily transportation to each of the three community worksites, and securing comfortable lodging at Delaware State University’s Wesley Campus.
“There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes of a complex operation like the Dover IRT project,” Robinson said. “Our Services and PERSCO teams are the backbone of projects like these; they are at the core of operations and help make the overall project a success.”
The Central Delaware Partnership for Hope IRT project wrapped up on Aug. 12.