DoD’s Innovative Readiness Training Program Helps U.S. Communities

Katie Lange
Department of Defense

We often see our troops giving humanitarian aid to people in need across the world, but they do it here at home, too.

Through the Defense Department’s Innovative Readiness Training program, communities in need can get help with things like infrastructure, health care, transportation, veterinary care, and even cybersecurity and mosquito reduction.

Capt. Paul Kearney (left), a general dentist assigned to 7404th Medical Support Unit, and Pvt. 1st Class Lauren Schildt (right), prepare to extract an Illinois resident’s tooth during Innovative Readiness Training exercise Southeast Illinois Wellness. Photo by Army Reserve Medical Command Lt. Col. Angela Wallace.

Aside from aiding distressed American communities, the program also gives service members mission-essential training that will help them when they deploy. So really, it’s a win-win for civilians and the military. Our communities can see their service members in action, which lets them show off their expertise to the people who support them.

Volunteers from all branches of the military can get involved, including the National Guard and Reserves. You can apply here.

Who Can Request Help?

If you live in an area that would like to request IRT support and services from the DoD, you have to fall into one of the following categories:

  • Public or private nonprofit entity
  • Federal, regional, state or local authority
  • Some youth and charitable organizations, like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H and the Police Athletic League

What You Need to Make It Happen

To get the support, you need to complete an application form here, including a liability release and hold-harmless agreement. Applicants also need to give a sustainable vision to which the military can make a tangible contribution, which includes designs, blueprints and property access plans. You must also verify that National Environmental Policy Act requirements are complete.

U.S. Air Navy Hospital Corpsman Petty Officer 2nd Class Kiara Schuster, a general medic with the Navy Reserve Expeditionary Medical Facility Great Lakes, builds rapport with a young boy prior to his dental procedure, in Millen, Ga., July 14, 2018, during the East Central Georgia Innovative Readiness Training. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Theanne Herrmann

Here are some IRT program frequently asked questions.

Stipulations of Applying

The applications have to be sent in one fiscal year BEFORE the partnership would be expected to take place, since they’re mostly funded by existing military service training budgets, along with some private contributions. However, if the requesting entity happens to find a military unit with adequate training funds willing to volunteer, the projects can begin much faster.

Army Reserve Sgt. Hector Blanco completes in-processing with local residents waiting for medical services at Betty Harwell Middle School in Edinburg, Texas. About 50 Army Reserve soldiers assigned to the 7235th Medical Support Unit out of Orlando, Texas, worked in partnership with the Texas A&M Colonias program June 16-27 to provide medical care to Hidalgo County’s underserved colonia population. Photo by Army Reserve Medical Command Lt. Col. Angela Wallace.

Not every project gets approved. The requests are reviewed first to see if they meet valid military training requirements and comply with all laws and policies. The projects also can’t compete with the private sector or include commercial development, so you’ll need to offer assurances of that when you apply.

The entity applying for the aid will have to provide or organize any facilities, materials and volunteers that would be needed to make the project happen, along with any medical credentialing. The military will provide the expertise.

A Recent Example of Services

An IRT mission in June sent active and reserve Army soldiers to Harrisburg, Illinois, to offer people in need free dental, medical and optical services.

“They don’t have a lot of physicians in the area, specifically services like dental and optometry,” said Army Reserve Col. Susan Mantell, a family physician with the 7215th Medial Support Unit. “So, we’re here to fulfill some of the needs of the community.”

Some of the patients they see even have insurance.

“You may have insurance but still not see the doctor because your deductible is so high. So, having insurance is not having health care,” Mantell said.

The mission, which lasted 10 days, helped more than 1,075 people with medical services. The crew distributed nearly 550 pairs of glasses.

“I think people are really impressed by all that we are able to do … to give them as close to comprehensive care as we can,” said Capt. Mike Bell, a dentist with the 7215th. “I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to be able to treat the very civilians that we fight for every day.”

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DoD’s Innovative Readiness Training Program Helps U.S. Communities