ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait --
After 21 years, the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group was inactivated May 30, 2021, as the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing shifts from an expeditionary group construct to the Air Staff model.
“With this shift, our wing must be prepared for crisis before crisis emerges,” said Col. Clinton Wilson, commander of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing. “This construct supports rapid decision making, maximizes responsiveness, streamlines administrative processes for both crisis response and day-to-day operations and further improves our joint integration.”
Col. Richard Palmer, outgoing commander of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, who served in the role for one year, left the group with impressive statistics. Medical group personnel provided health screenings to thousands of Afghan refugees and retrograded Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines during the largest noncombatant evacuation operation in history.
“Your focus on preventative medicine put the 386th Medical Group front and center as you were rated first in the [U.S. Central Command area of responsibility] to complete the influenza vaccination campaign and positively highlighted the wing by holding the highest [Individual Medical Readiness] rates in the theater for the past nine months,” said Wilson.
When medical operations closed at other military installations in Kuwait, Palmer’s team absorbed those medical appointments. Palmer also built relationships with joint coalition counterparts, laying the groundwork for a NATO coalition clinic, an endeavor that Canadian partners recognized by awarding the 386th EMDG with the Canadian Joint Task Force IMPACT award.
“As Col. Wilson alluded to, we're [shifting to an A-staff model] to transition into a more lethal, efficient and productive force for squadron commanders to be more empowered to build and lead their Airmen to future mission successes here in the AOR,” said Palmer.
When adding up all the patient visits from physical therapy, mental health, dental and primary care, the group conducted 34,000 patient encounters, provided 15,000 prescriptions, administered 13,000 vaccinations, conducted over 7,000 labs and 1,300 x-rays with an unprecedented return to duty rate of 99.2%. The team escorted over 150 aeromedical evacuation patients, conducted 36 job site visits, 243 food-to-public health facility inspections, tested over 10 million bottles of water for safe consumption and tracked 336 equipment items with a modest 52 member team.
“You conducted over 50 training events and nine exercises honing in on your command and control, interoperability and overall war readiness skills in preparation for real world events,” said Wilson. “This training enabled you to work through an unannounced real-world mass casualty event this past March in less than two hours with nothing but precision, returning 100% of the personnel back to duty.”
Palmer also gave a special thanks to the behind-the-scenes support teams that often go undetected, yet contribute greatly to the mission: the medical control center, logistics team, public health team, base operational medicine clinic, bioenvironmental team and the systems technician.
As Palmer left his post as group commander and Lt. Col. John Stubbs assumed command of the newly activated the 386th Expeditionary Medical Squadron, the squadron was left in knowledgeable hands.
“Lt. Col. John Stubbs is no stranger to deployments; he spent time in Africa and Afghanistan, led a radiation surveillance team during Operation Tomodachi when the Fukushima reactor was damaged by a tsunami,” said Wilson.
Stubbs recognized the sacrifices made on both sides of the world–at home and deployed–but emphasized the worth of the opportunity to lead the 386th EMDS.
“To all my mentors and leaders, thank you for trusting and teaching Lt. Stubbs the ways of the Air Force early, all the way up to Lt. Col. Stubbs today and exposing me to the many good and even not-so-good examples of leadership to guide the way that I now lead,” said Stubbs.
Stubbs assumed command on May 30, 2022.
“I know you're ready,” said Wilson. “My charge to you is to lead the squadron with tenacity, courage and compassion.”