OST increases readiness, resilience

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nicole Leidholm
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

In August 2020, Dover Air Force Base developed the Operational Support Team, a five-person medical team that embeds into units for three to four months focusing on preventative care.

The team is made up of a physical therapist, physical therapy technician, a social worker, a psychologist and a strength coach, providing on-site care, training and preventative fitness and mental health techniques tailored to each squadron’s needs.

“With [explosive ordnance disposal] and fire, we were seeing a lot of back and shoulder injuries,” said Lt. Col. (Dr.) Denise Lemon, 436th Health Care Operations Squadron human performance flight commander and OST member. “We created a fitness program that was tailored to them and emphasized what their bodies could tolerate in the gear.”

The OST follows a dashboard of data on physical profiles in each squadron and evaluates which ones are struggling with a high number of musculoskeletal or mental health profiles. They then embed with the identified squadrons to reduce the number of physical injuries and create an atmosphere where Airmen feel comfortable coming forward with their medical issues.

“Our team goes out to each unit and is embedded with them so we know them and are familiar with them,” said Lemon. “They may have a [primary care manager who had a permanent change of station], this way they feel comfortable opening up to us.”

The OST provides classes in communication, healthy sleep and eating habits as well as exercises and stretches geared toward their individual jobs.

“We work all shifts with the squadrons we’re embedded in,” said Breanna Pelleschi, 436th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron licensed clinical social worker. “We can provide individual sessions if needed and do ride-alongs to get a better idea of what the Airmen are going through.”
Airmen are able to talk with OST members without the need for a formal evaluation. This opens the lines of communication on a wide range of issues.

“I want to know what is stopping them from doing their job efficiently,” said Lemon. “I want to know if we can benefit them in any way, get them off [physical] profile and optimize the readiness mission.”

Following the success of the program with the fire department and EOD, the team embedded with the 436th Aerial Port Squadron.

So far, feedback regarding the OST’s involvement has been positive. Senior Airman Taylor Pate, 436th APS fleet services specialist, enjoys team building activities the OST leads as they encourage awareness and flexibility when talking with peers.

“It’s good for effective communication and for me to remember to listen and take turns,” said Pate. “It is also about working with different people and adapting to how they communicate.”

The OST is located in the Health Promotions Flight, formerly known as the Health and Wellness Center, at the base gym, to provide additional assistance to Airmen from squadron’s that have OSTs embedded.

“We’ve created this neutral place so Airmen we’re already embedded with can stop in and ask us any questions,” said Lemon. “We wanted to make ourselves accessible and be able to give them additional guidance especially with the nutritionist or with health promotions.”