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Spc. Thomas Ashworth: seeing the results of Appalachian Care 2019

Spc. Thomas Ashworth: seeing the results of Appalachian Care 2019

Story by SSgt Jacob Cessna on 08/20/2019

“Definitely the community! The Joint-service interactions, my teammates. Being able to hang with them and do what we’ve trained to do for so long.”

These are what Spc. Thomas Ashworth said he would remember about Innovative Readiness Training Appalachian Care 2019, happening Aug. 16-29 in Wise, Virginia.

Appalachian Care 2019 is one of the few U.S. military medical training opportunities that offer hands-on application. Active and reserve medical personnel from the Air Force, Navy, and Army provide no-cost health care to the public in Wise, Virginia, considered to be a high-need area. Services span from general medical care, dental, optometry, to even veterinarian care.

Ashworth joined the Army for moments like these.

“I definitely appreciate being able to come out here — I joined to help other communities and other people, and it actually helped me find who I want to be.”

He lived in Massachusetts, for most of his life in the same town, Burlington. After working at a grocery store for five years, Ashworth began to want more for his life. He signed up with the Army to find his true potential and to give back to others.

Today, Ashworth’s job title is a 68-Y, an eye specialist. He’s assigned to the 24th Medical Detachment, the optometry service connected to the 44th Medical Brigade out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He’s gone on two other missions similar to Appalachian Care, where he and his unit provided optometry and fabrication services to underprivileged communities around the world.

At Appalachian Care, he fulfills the role of Optometry Tech, where he screens patients, measures visual acuity, depth perception, and reads the prescription of their glasses. These services are offered at no-cost, and prescriptions are delivered within 24 hours.

“They come in today, they get their eyes checked, the doctor writes them a prescription, and we send it over to fabrication — and it’s all in one day.”

Ashworth and his fellow optometry specialists in the 24th Medical Detachment could only perform such precise tasks so efficiently through months of training.

“The ratio for training is a ten to one-month ratio. We’re training constantly to prepare for these and make sure we provide the best service we possibly can.” He goes on to say, “Appalachian Care itself is a great opportunity to continue that training in healthcare, to train in your occupational specialty, and to train like how we would operate on a deployment.”

He doesn’t just feel he’s made an impact on his country, he’s seen the results.

“There’s nothing like seeing a patient that’s never worn glasses before, and they put them on for the first time, and they can see. It’s amazing. I love it — it’s great to see those skills in real-world scenarios.”

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