ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
The human body is a complex system of organs, bones and a nervous system. While some injuries and ailments may be only skin deep, others require an inside look to accurately diagnose.
The 28th Medical Group Diagnostic Imaging Flight may only be staffed by two Airmen, but their scope of responsibility reaches more than 3,700 members of Team Ellsworth, their families and local retirees.
“Since we only have one room here in our shop, we only provide basic skeletal X-rays such as the spine and extremities,” said Master Sgt. Mia Newmeyer, 28th Medical Support Squadron diagnostic imaging noncommissioned officer in charge. “Everything else including [computerized tomography], MRIs, ultrasounds and mammograms are referred [to off-base providers].”
Although Ellsworth’s diagnostic imaging, also known as radiology clinic, may be smaller than others at large bases, it doesn’t prevent them from providing the best care they can for their patients.
“One of the biggest changes that’s happened in the medical group is we are now open during base-mandated or command-mandated family days,” Newmeyer said. “Whereas before, we would be closed like most shops on base. By doing this, and also changing our hours of operation, we can be more available to the wing.”
Ellsworth’s diagnostic imaging section sees between 20 to 30 patients a day. The additional hours and availability allows the team to help more service members and provide more effective care.
“Usually people come to us after they’ve seen their [primary care manager],” Newmeyer said. “From there, we get the patient checked in and talk to them about why they came to see us, learn a little bit more about the issue and get them in for their X-ray.”
Like any medical profession, accuracy is key. As a result, a longer training period is required for a diagnostic imaging technician compared to some of the other medical Air Force Specialty Codes.
“Our [technical] school is 14 months long,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Gulland, a 28th MDG diagnostic imaging technician. “In the first five months [phase one] … we’re deep into our classwork and books, testing at least once a week. Phase two is nine months long, and that’s where we get a lot more hands-on training. We learn everything from terminology and human anatomy to positioning and radiographic technique. It’s a very fast-paced and intense program.”
Radiology technicians often return to school for further training in other areas of the job including ultrasounds and nuclear medicine. Despite the lengthy training and scope of responsibility at Ellsworth, both Newmeyer and Gulland agree on one thing: it was worth it.
“I love being able to come in everyday and do a job where I know I’m directly helping people with a medical issue might be having,” Newmeyer said. “Even though we’re a small clinic, it doesn’t prevent us from providing quality care.”