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NEWS | June 4, 2009

Streamlined process eliminates lengthy redeployments

By Staff Sgt. Daniel Bowles 437th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Crowds of families and friends swarming the base passenger terminal waiting to meet redeploying Airmen are a regular sight at Charleston AFB.

The Airmen they greet have all been tasked to carry out their share of the global Air Force mission.

Taking on their own share of the Air Force mission at Charleston AFB with a bit of ingenuity, the 437th Aeromedical Dental Squadron public health flight is helping return Airmen back to their loved ones faster than ever by employing a speedy method of mass medical in-processing.

The method is a shift in the way in-processing is handled when a large group of Airmen return home.

Before the change, redeploying Airmen arrived to initially reunite with others, but would still need to accomplish necessary paperwork and tests, some of which could not be completed in a single day due to the number of people needing help.

The types of documentation required to be completed include a post deployment health assessment, mental health assessment and travel voucher. Also, individuals are required to give a blood sample to help precisely track the origin of potential future ailments.

The need for a quick way to in-process redeploying Airmen stemmed from the desire to make redeployments more effective for service providers, Airmen and the family and friends waiting to see them, said Hank Smith, director of training integration with the 437th Operations Support Squadron.

One advantage to the process is having a large enough facility available to house the entire operation in one location.

"The aerial port squadron lets us use the passenger terminal. It gives us more space and makes it more comfortable for [Airmen]," said Staff Sgt. Sonya Schunior, NCO in charge of deployment medicine with the 437 ADOS.

Another benefit is much of the post deployment paperwork is now accomplished online by Airmen while still in the theater, making the current redeployment process far less cumbersome, said Airman 1st Class Candace Kitchen, a public health technician with the 437 ADOS.

The standing record for processing time is around 34 minutes from the time the first Airman enters the passenger terminal till the last one grabs his or her bags. Average times range from the record speed to an hour-and-a-half.

Another factor affecting the process was a change to the public health career field education and training plan. Before the change, public health technicians performed full medical record reviews, but now they are in a management capacity and medical technicians handle the hands-on patient care and in-depth reviews.

The change allows the public health flight to manage the records of deploying Airmen more efficiently and focus their attention on the broad issues affecting redeployments, said Airman Kitchen.

In addition to the normally required agencies, extra volunteers from the medical clinic are needed to accomplish the process expediently, placing an isolated burden on the medical group depending on the day or time a unit returns, including weekends.

The only alternative to a mass processing line at the base passenger terminal would be to serve each Airman at the public health office.

"You don't want 133 people trying to come through here," said Airman Kitchen. "If you have 133 people, that's going to take our whole office dropping everything to help them."

It takes approximately one week for the squadron to prepare for a mass redeployment, but it is worth the effort, said Airman Kitchen.

"There's a lot of manpower and a lot of man-hours to try to coordinate everything so they can come in and get their processing in an hour-and-a-half and go home to their families," said Sergeant Schunior.