Physical Therapy embeds into 92nd Maintenance Squadron

US Air Force Medicine | 2023-11-17

By Airman 1st Class Clare Werner

Airmen plate food for themselves.
Airmen assigned to the 92nd Maintenance Squadron sample healthy meals during a nutrition class at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct. 31, 2023. The OST taught this class to help Airmen assigned to the 92nd MXS learn how easy meal preparation can be along with how simple it can be to make healthier food choices. This class was a part of the embedment of the OST into the 92nd MXS that began in July of 2023. This embedment was the first to occur at Fairchild AFB as a part of a newly implemented program to decrease work related injuries to ensure Airmen are continuously ready to complete the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clare Werner)
A man instructs Airmen about how to perform a stretch.
Dali Phillips, the strength and conditioning specialist assigned to 92nd Medical Group’s Operational Support Team, coaches a group of Aerospace Ground Equipment Airmen on how to perform a stretch during an injury prevention class at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct. 19, 2023. Phillips and the OST taught this class to help Airmen assigned to the 92nd Maintenance Squadron become more aware of common injuries relating to their career field and how to prevent them. This class was a part of the embedment of the OST into the 92nd MXS that began in July of 2023. This embedment was the first to occur at Fairchild AFB as a part of a newly implemented program to decrease work related injuries to ensure Airmen are continuously ready to complete the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clare Werner)
A woman briefs others about healthy food.
Capt. Natalie Garrett, chief of physical prevention for the 92nd Medical Group’s Operational Support Team, shows Airmen assigned to the 92nd Maintenance Squadron healthy versions of food she prepared during a nutrition class at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct. 31, 2023. The OST taught this class to help Airmen assigned to the 92nd MXS learn how easy meal preparation can be and how simple it can be to make healthier food choices. This class was a part of the embedment of the OST into the 92nd MXS that began in July of 2023. This embedment was the first to occur at Fairchild AFB as a part of a newly implemented program to decrease work related injuries to ensure Airmen are continuously ready to complete the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clare Werner)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, WA: The 92nd Medical Group’s Operational Support Team is currently embedded with the 92nd Maintenance Squadron as part of an Air Force initiative to provide more readily available access to physical therapy and mental health assets for units with unique hours, mission requirements or other specific needs.

The OST officially started its six-month embed with the 92nd MXS July 24, 2023, to enhance physical and mental readiness for maintainers who may not be able to frequently travel to and from the 92nd MDG facility due to non-standard duty times and mission requirements. This marked the first such program at Fairchild Air Force Base.

Members of the Operational Support Team pose for a photo.
Left to right: Dali Phillips, strength and conditioning specialist, William Saultes, team specialist, and Capt. Natalie Garrett, chief of physical prevention, all assigned to 92nd Medical Group’s Operational Support Team, pose for a photo at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, Oct. 31, 2023. The OST taught a nutrition class to help Airmen assigned to the 92nd Maintenance Squadron learn how easy meal preparation can be along with how simple it can be to make healthier food choices. This class was a part of the embedment of the OST into the 92nd MXS that began in July of 2023. This embedment was the first to occur at Fairchild AFB as a part of a newly implemented program to decrease work related injuries to ensure Airmen are continuously ready to complete the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clare Werner)

“It takes the middleman out, so the member doesn’t have to drive all the way over to the MDG in order to get some tips to prevent injury,” said Garret. “I think OST, as a model, is really great and it’s not just going to make life easier for maintenance people, but for anybody we’re embedded with."

“We want to cut out whatever barriers possible to the member,” she added. “If we can fit it into their workday, it opens that door for them to start seeing the benefits and they understand how we can make a positive impact on their life.”

Fairchild’s OST consists of a physical therapist, a team specialist, a strength and conditioning coach and a licensed clinical social worker who are working to improve injury prevention by molding a specific program for the unit in which they’re embedded.

Garrett said the 92nd MXS was selected for the embed program using an Air Force computer system called “Knowledge Exchange” that presents data on units that may be at higher chance for work-related musculoskeletal injuries and mental health risks. After categorizing the units, the OST initiated discussions with the commanders of those units to see which of those could support the six-month embed timeline.

“We did a lot of data analysis and spent a lot of time talking with Lt. Col. Abigail Curtis, the 92nd MXS commander, about embedding with this unit,” said Garrett. “The command team has been so supportive about it.”

According to Garrett, initiatives like this enable units to enhance their readiness by providing physical and mental help resources directly at the source, minimizing lost travel time and increasing accessibility.

“I think that this is a great stride forward in providing preventative health care,” Garrett explained. “We really need to try to prevent members from getting injured as much as possible. The fact that we’ve made step in that direction is great, and I hope we’re able to impact as many people as possible across the base.”