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132nd Medical Group 'MEDHAWKS' garner national recognition through innovative medical care

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Christopher Knapp gives Col. Jim Duong and Chief Master Sgt. Kris Rode the 2015 ANG Medical Service Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement in Innovation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Doyle/Released)

Brig. Gen. Christopher Knapp, the Air National Guard Assistant to the Command Surgeon – Air Combat Command (right), Col. Jim Duong, the 132nd Medical Group Commander (center), and Chief Master Sgt. Kris Rode, 132nd Medical Group Superintendent (left), stand at attention during the presentation of the Outstanding Achievement in Innovation – Team Category Award for 2015 to the 132nd Medical Group “MEDHAWKS.” The Des Moines-based unit earned the national award following competition against the Air National Guard Medical Service’s other 88 Guard Medical Units. (Iowa National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Doyle)

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Christopher Knapp gives Col. Jim Duong the 2015 ANG Medical Service Annual Award for Outstanding Achievement in Innovation. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Doyle/Released)

Brig. Gen. Christopher Knapp (right), the Air National Guard Assistant to the Command Surgeon – Air Combat Command, and Col. Jim Duong, 132nd Medical Group Commander (left), pose with the Outstanding Achievement in Innovation – Team Category Award for 2015. The 132nd Medical Group “MEDHAWKS” received the national award following competition against the Air National Guard Medical Service’s other 88 Guard Medical Units. (Iowa National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew T. Doyle)

03/05/2016 -- DES MOINES AIRBASE, Iowa - The 132nd Medical Group "MEDHAWKS" were recognized with a national-level award at its base clinic during a recent visit by Brig. Gen. Christopher J. Knapp, the Air National Guard (ANG) Assistant to the Command Surgeon - Air Combat Command.

The 132nd Wing received the Outstanding Achievement in Innovation - Team Category Award for 2015, following competition against the Air National Guard Medical Service's (ANGMS) other 88 Guard Medical Units (GMUs).

"It was awesome to see our Airmen take pride in their work, make contributions with real results, and get recognized for it at the national level," said Col. Jim Duong, Commander of the 132nd Medical Group. "It was icing on the cake that Brig. Gen. Knapp was visiting the 132nd Wing, and was willing to present the award to the medical group on behalf of the ANGMS.

"As a leader, I couldn't be more proud. This award proves you don't have to go out and do something over-the-top to get recognized. You can do the daily things and do them well, and reap the rewards of your hard work," he said.

In a fast-paced, but fruitful year, these inspired Airmen achieved many titan-sized feats. For starters, the MEDHAWKS consistently held a "Top 10" Individual Medical Readiness (IMR) rating for the whole of 2015, while being recognized as the "best in the region" five times and "best in the nation" in July 2015.

What is even more impressive, it came in the midst of a mission conversion from F-16 fighter aircraft to three new and enduring mission sets: a Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Squadron; an Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) Group; and a Cyber Operations Squadron.

The MEDHAWKS didn't stop there, though, after taking a hard look at how they conduct physical exams.

"Over the last year we implemented changes to the physical exam process that allowed us to reduce our patient wait time by 21 minutes. Allowing members to return to their duty section sooner," said Senior Master Sgt. Doug Harms, Non-Commissioned Officer-in-Charge of Nursing Services.

"By using the feedback from our customers and allowing our junior enlisted and Non-Commissioned Officers to champion the process improvement, we allowed them to have buy-in to a process that benefited all personnel involved," he said.

In the end, the MEDHAWKS returned 210 hours back to the Wing for use in training and mission operations, a major contribution towards efficiency and better care in a resource-constrained and task-heavy operating environment.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg for the MEDHAWKS. In June, they orchestrated an RPA-centric health fair addressing sleep hygiene and fatigue, as well as grounding management and medical standards. They also hosted an active duty Air Force psychologist in July to educate more than 100 flyers and their families on the psychological effects of remote combat.

In August, they participated in their first Unit Effectiveness Inspection, which culminated in an "Effective" rating. Their Senior Aerospace Medical Technicians were also recognized as a Superior Performance Team, and an Air Force Inspection Agency - Medical Branch Coin recipient. In September, they were chosen to support an Office of the Secretary of Defense Innovative Readiness Training mission for the second time in three years.

The MEDHAWKS ended Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 on a high note. After scanning their first service treatment record into the electronic health record server in April 2015, the MEDHAWKS utilized an innovative mix of full-time and temporary federal technicians and Active Guard and Reserve personnel, as well as traditional drill-status Airmen to finish the FY at 74 percent complete - a full 34 percent above the ANGMS-mandated 40 percent completion by fiscal year end.

"Through hard work and a 'can do' attitude, this award points back to the outstanding team we have at the 132nd," said Chief Master Sgt. Kris Rode, superintendent of the 132nd Medical Group. "It's the above-and-beyond efforts of our Airmen that validate us as a proven top-tier GMU."

The Outstanding Achievement in Innovation - Team Category Award, given annually, recognizes an individual or small group of military/civilians who have made substantial improvements in the quality and productivity of operations. These improvements must align with one or all of the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) Strategic Areas: better care, better health, best value, and individual medical readiness.

These improvements are often fostered by out-of-the-box ideas, specialized/tailored medical programs, or other continual-process improvement initiatives. In the end, they all result in a substantial improvement in clinic operations, care, and provide a savings to the AFMS and the ANGMS.

The Air National Guard uses their medical award program to identify and recognize outstanding performers in 36 different categories. Those selected at the ANG level then have the potential to compete at the Air Force level.