Operation CoCare, a benefit for the Ute Nation

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares
  • 140th Public Affairs
More than 30 members of the Colorado Air National Guard's 140th Medical Group travelled to southwest Colorado to spend a week learning from and providing health services to the Native American Ute Tribes as part of a health promotion fair, Operation CoCare.

The Operation CoCare mission would not only help fellow Coloradoans, but would also help build a lasting relationship with the historic group of people. During the week, the 140th Medical Group provided a multitude of health services including screenings for hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes and weight management issues, as well as provided dental consultations and sports physicals.

"It is especially poignant and important that this year our medical group is down here supporting fellow Coloradoans, people that are indigenous and native to our home land; what they are doing is making a difference," said Brig. Gen. Trulan Eyre, commander of the 140th Wing. "We are educating ourselves on them and they are educating themselves on us; there are bound to be benefits both ways."

The health promotion fair also featured an interactive area where children became versed in simple first aid, tried out some medical equipment, and learned about what medical professionals do in the military. In addition to the health fair in Towaoc, Colo., the 140th Medical Group provided services to the fourth-annual Tri Ute Games that were also being held that week.

Not only did the 140th Medical Group provide some much needed health services to this community, they also accomplished some of their own training requirements.

"We are holding Operation CoCare, it is a cooperative effort with the Ute tribes here in southwestern Colorado," said Col. Paul Shingledecker, commander, 140th Medical Group. "This is an effort for us to help improve health standards and add to the health care available here at the Ute Mountain reservation and at the southern Ute reservation and at the same time we are accomplishing our own training needs," he explained.

The 140th Medical Group's emergency services technicians trained on how to extract patients from crushed vehicles and how to prepare and load patients onto a UH-60 Blackhawk medical evacuation helicopter that the Colorado Army National Guard provided mid-week.

At the same time the 140th Medical Group medics trained with members of the Towaoc emergency medical services on how to isolate fracture dislocations, splinting and how to immobilize patients in the back country.

"It has been really beneficial; we have learned a lot on both sides. They are in a unique setting because they are very remote," said Maj. Greg Stiller, an emergency physician with the 140th Medical Group.

"They have things they can teach us that inner city paramedics don't actually deal with," he explained. "Our medics have been riding with their medics going out into the community to see what they deal with and how they deal with it and it gives an interesting perspective on their culture as well."

The 140th Medical Group professionals initiated the week on the Ute Reservation town of Towaoc, which is in Colorado near the Four Corners, and then they travelled to Ignacio, a reservation town more than 60 miles east of Towaoc for the last part of the week.

While in Ignacio, the medical group provided nearly all of the same services as in Towaoc, while the dental and EMS teams stayed in Towaoc to finish their training. On the last day in town, the 140th Medical Group participated in the town parade for Ignacio.

"This has been a wonderful opportunity for the Ute people to get to know what the Colorado Air National Guard is about and it has been a wonderful opportunity for our troops to get to know these people. They have established some good relationships," said Colonel Shingledecker. "We are accomplishing our goal of our folks working in a cross cultural environment."