Operation Lone Star returns to Rio Grande Valley

Story by: Col. Robert Morecook

Posted: Aug. 4, 2016

A Soldier from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves provides dental services to a patient in need during an annual medical disaster preparedness exercise in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Human Health Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)
A Soldier from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves provides dental services to a patient in need during an annual medical disaster preparedness exercise in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Human Health Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

AUSTIN, Texas -- For the 18th consecutive year, Operation Lone Star took place in the Rio Grande Valley, July 25 – 29, 2016. Also known as OLS, the operation is an annual public health training event brought together by a large team of health organizations to train for public health emergencies and disasters.

Led by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the team included military personnel from the Texas State Guard’s Medical Brigade and the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, who provided much of the medical care to underserved communities in South Texas.

The military units worked closely together to provide much of the health care needs to the thousands of people who came through the doors of the five designated sites during OLS.

Their contributions were augmented by city and county public health services, public school districts, volunteer agencies such as Remote Area Medical, and medical training schools.

While providing care to underserved Texans, the large team practiced the coordination needed to set up and run large-scale public health clinics in case of natural or man-made disasters.

“We truly believe we made a great difference in the lives of people in South Texas,” said Lt. Col. Claud Cameron, Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard and OLS officer in charge at Juarez-Lincoln High School. “One fine lady said in tears that the glasses we provided at no cost to her made it possible for her to get a driver’s license and a job, totally changing her life.”

Services were provided at no cost to patients and included: immunizations for children; screenings for diabetes, high blood pressure and hearing and vision; sports physicals; physician visits; dental cleanings, fillings and extractions; optometric exams with free glasses; and mental health screenings, treatment and referrals.

“It’s a privilege to work with the Texas State Guard here in South Texas,” said Lt. Col. William Greene, RN, 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, officer in charge of Army Reserve soldiers serving at Juarez Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas. “There has been good cohesion among all the troops from both Texas State Guard and Army Reserve, and it has been great to see how well all the pieces have come together.”

Research by the Texas State Guard during previous years indicates a substantial need for mental health services.

“Mental health has been really big this year,” said 1st Lt. Diann Mills, R.N., of the Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard, speaking about the Juarez Lincoln site.  “Lots of time what brings people in to the clinic is a physical health problem but the underlying mental health problem or stressful life situation may be the real cause.

During OLS, clinics were also run in Brownsville, San Juan, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas. “Our plan is to be ready to help Texans in case of disaster or emergency,” said Cameron.  “Missions like Operation Lone Star help make this possible.”