"It's a win-win for us and the military," says Chris Masingill, federal co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, a joint federal-state board that promotes economic development in the eight-state area. "Our part of the world is one of the most economically distressed areas of the country and you can add on top of that our poor health attainment issues and our medically underserved population that we have in the Delta region, Masingill says.
"The military gets to put in place the procedures and plans that it would use during a time of natural disaster or war. This is an opportunity for them to test their supply chain, medical training, staffing levels, logistics, you name it. They run the gauntlet in those two weeks that they are setting up their field medical units in our part of the world."
Masingill says the military has estimated that it provided about $3 million in free medical care during the two-week mission. "The military folks absolutely love this. Instead of going overseas to do their two weeks of annual training they can do it right here at home and the benefit is enormous," he says.
For many of the military medical providers, a trip to the Delta can be illuminating.
"Some of the physicians and particularly the dentists who practice in more affluent areas in their private practices, when they participated in our IRT program their reaction is 'Wow!'" Massingill says.
"You hear about it. You read about it. People tell you about it. But now they've seen the kind of poverty that has an impact on somebody's oral health and it is pretty tremendous. We had one case where every tooth in that individual's mouth was extracted. That is something you don't see every day."