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AMTU Eases Medical Process

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Charles Dickens and Staff Sgt. Mikayla Daly 
  • Airman Magazine

 

There is much that goes into maintaining a military force that is ready to face the challenges of global conflict. The key factor in maintaining a state of readiness, however, is through maintenance of the Air Force’s most vital, and least expendable asset: its Airmen. 

 

 

The need to take care of Airmen and their families is emphasized at every echelon of Air Force leadership, and many programs have been put in place over the years to demonstrate the Air Force’s dedication to its warfighters. The nature of these programs are as diverse as those who use them, and can be administrative, recreational, and even medical.

 

All Airmen require medical care throughout their career and the necessary level of care to help an Airman recover can vary greatly. Severe injuries or complex medical conditions may require speciality care that may not be available near or at their current duty station, which can create additional obstacles on the road to recovery. The Airman Medical Transition Unit, or AMTU, is a program that is designed to help ease the stress and uncertainty of navigating medical care within the Air Force.

 


“We have global reach, and our mission is to take care of patients,” said Lt. Col. Nicole Garris, 316th Medical Group, AMTU Flight Commander. “We do that by providing comprehensive and empathic care coordination, administrative support, oversight and liaison between command teams and military medical treatment facilities all over the globe.”

 

According to Garris, Air Force service members can be assigned to an AMTU if they’re stationed at a base that can’t provide their necessary specialty care or if being closer to family would provide assistance and emotional support during their recovery period.

 

Airman Medical Transition Units were previously known as patient squadrons, but they’ve since evolved into the currently implemented program. There are three permanent AMTUs across the Air Force Medical Service located at Joint Base Andrews, Md., with a satellite office at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, JB San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and Travis Air Force Base, Calif. A patient’s options are not necessarily limited to those three locations though, as AMTU programs are in place on Air Force installations around the world and are activated as needed.

 

“The patient squadron was originally formed to help assist those patients that were coming from other installations that needed administrative support and oversight,” said Tech. Sgt. Darryl Donaldson, 316th MDG, AMTU Flight Chief. “This was to help them have a support system from the Air Force side.”

 

Although these patients are still in the Air Force, Donaldson explained that their new job while attached to an AMTU is to focus on their care and recovery. The AMTU team offers assistance and helps to facilitate administrative tasks such as EPRs, travel vouchers and assignments or logistical issues that may impact the member’s access to care.


In addition to providing a support system for Airmen receiving medical care, the AMTU also helps to provide a support system for families and caregivers.

“The [caregiver] support that we give is morale-boosting, partnering them with the Army [Soldier Recovery Unit],” Garris explained. “It’s also a means to have that group formation where you’re not in this alone. It’s morale, group support, emotional support, administrative and logistical support.”

 

Being sent to an AMTU does not guarantee medical separation or retirement from the Air Force. Patients may be returned to duty within their career field or assisted with the process of cross training into a different job. If returned to the career field, the AMTU continues to offer support by reaching out to a nurse care manager to ensure a smooth transition.

 

“I was physically injured while I was playing soccer for the United States Air Force Europe women’s soccer team,” said Tech. Sgt. Jessica Garcia, 316th Wing Judge Advocate Civil Law NCOIC. “ I suffered a rare injury to my foot, and that led to my doctor telling me that after the initial surgery, I had less than a 20 to 40 percent chance of ever being able to run again. I asked for permission from my commander and he authorized me to fly during my convalescent leave to get a second opinion.”

 

Garcia explained that the trip to get a second opinion occurred in February 2020, leading to being unable to return to England due to closed country borders. During this time, she applied for the AMTU program, was accepted, and received orders for a new unit in June.

 

“I reported to the unit in September after my surgery and I re-entered into the med board again because they restarted the process,” Garcia said. “All the research I did, all of my letters of recommendation and previous history led me to be able to fight the med board and be returned to duty.”

 

While the AMTU has no control over the determination of a med board, Garcia illustrated the benefit of the program for an Airman going through the process.
 


“They honestly do any and everything possible to be able to provide you with resources so that you can figure out the information you want to know regarding your situation,” Garcia said. “They genuinely do care, and it was felt and reflected through my experience. As long as you are advocating for what you want, whether that be to be med boarded, to remain active or to retrain, make sure you also let that be known to your AMTU section and they will work with you with whatever they can do. They can’t guarantee you anything that you want, but they will do everything in their power to support you.”

 

Although some patients return back to the field, others do not always get that opportunity. Donaldson emphasized the importance of prioritizing one’s health above all.

 

“Even if the Air Force comes back and says, ‘we’re going to medically retire or separate you’, there’s still an appeal process after that”, Donaldson said. “It’s just having to keep them calm and make sure they’re really focusing on their health, because that’s the number one priority for them, and it is for us.” 

 

Whatever the needs of their patients, the mission of the AMTU remains to provide comprehensive and compassionate care coordination and to aid America’s Airmen as they continue on their road to recovery

 

For additional information about the AMTU visit their fact page at https://andrews.tricare.mil/Health-Services/Airman-Medical-Transition-Unit-AMTU.



 
 
AIRMAN MAGAZINE
 

 

 

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