HOMER, N.Y. — On July 14, more than 100 U.S. military personnel arrived at Homer Intermediate School.
In less than 24 hours, troops had set up enough tents, equipment, clinics and supplies to provide basic healthcare services to more than 1,200 people and veterinary services to roughly 400 animals in Cortland County.
The event, dubbed “Healthy Cortland,” was part of an Innovative Readiness Training program provided by the U.S. Department of Defense. A similar was held simultaneously in Chenango County.
Members of the U.S. Army, Navy and U.S. National Guard provided dental examinations, cleanings, fillings and simple extractions. Medical, optometry and veterinary services were also provided at no cost to residents. More than 750 pairs of eyeglasses were fabricated on-site.
“Ninety-nine percent our providers — nurses, medics, ophthalmologists – do this in the real world, so they’re already licensed,” said Capt. Michael Cruppenink, who helped orchestrate the event.
The two busiest clinics at the event were dental and ophthalmology, Cruppenink said. Appointments for dental work were filled months in advance, with dental technicians treating about 20 patients per day.
With each passing day, the number of people attending the event grew exponentially as more residents learned about the free health care services available to them, Cruppenink said.
Several hundred volunteers assisted members of the military during the 10-day event.
Cruppenink said they hope to bring the event to Cortland County next year, though that decision is ultimately up to the Department of Defense. A town or city is chosen for the IRT program based on the medical needs of its population, he said.
“Without the community support and the people here, we wouldn’t have been able to pull it off,” Cruppenink said. “They were just as much a part of our team.”