Commissioned Corps Officers Deploy as Part of Operation Lone Star

In an appearance on KGBT-TV Channel 4 in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, CAPT Steven Sparenborg said the U.S. Public Health Service’s (USPHS) participation in Operation Lone Star (OLS), “bring[s] awareness to people in this area of wellness of being, of helping them create a better lifestyle for themselves, to be healthier – physically, mentally and socially.”

In partnership with state and local health and human services agencies, military forces, local service groups and other volunteers, more than 120 USPHS officers are participating in OLS , the largest public health humanitarian effort in the country. Based in south Texas, OLS includes the introduction of a wellness concept through the provision of mental health and nutrition counseling as well as epidemiological studies, medical services and limited pharmaceutical services.

Among several site-specific programs and opportunities, the wellness activities and assistance with patients accessing community services include:

  • Education on sleep, exercise, diet and nutrition
  • Preventive education regarding at risk behaviors that increase the likelihood of the development of chronic disease such as poor nutrition habits, tobacco use and alcohol use
  • Child engagement activities

USPHS officers will also be providing assistance to patients accessing community services and education on specific public health initiatives. For example, USPHS officers on July 25 treated about 180 patients at a temporary clinic at PSJA High School in San Juan, Texas. Working side-by-side with Hidalgo County personnel, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas State Guard and civilian volunteers, the USPHS mental health team provided nutrition counseling and healthy eating plans, wellness and mental health screenings (i.e. stress management, anger management, depression, etc.) and a host of other education and counseling services, in both English and Spanish.

Public Information Officers in the Joint Information Center (JIC)

Public Information Officers COL Morecook (Texas State Guard ), Ms. Corina Cordoza (Hidalgo County),
Mr. Dago Garza (Texas State), CDR Joe Zagame (USPHS, and CDR Maria Benke (USPHS) in the
Joint Information Center (JIC).

CAPT Kimberly Elenberg, Director of Training in the Surgeon General’s Office of Force Readiness, sees OLS as an opportunity for USPHS officers to provide direct health services to underserved communities, while putting into action their cultural competencies in an emergency responder training exercise. This year, 2011, marks the first time that USPHS response teams have participated in OLS and represents the ongoing commitment of the USPHS and the Department of Health and Human Services to increase access to health care and associated services for the underserved.

The USPHS response assets are comprised of teams with their own respective missions. Some of the teams are small and highly specialized while others are large and better able to accomplish missions with a large footprint. There are three teams currently participating in OLS, all operating under a unified command structure, PHS-1.The USPHS teams participating in OLS are a Rapid Deployment Force Team (RDF-1), Mental Health Team (MHT-1) and a Service Access Team (SAT-1). Together they comprise the PHS-1 unified team totaling 124 USPHS officers, commanded by CAPT Wendy Fanaselle, RDF-1 Team Leader.

CDR Randall Nett and LCDR Keisha Johnson

CDR Randall Nett and LCDR Keisha Johnson prepare to input data from the
epidemiology survey for the Texas State Department of Health Services.

About USPHS Emergency Response

The Office of the Surgeon General manages Commissioned Corps emergency response teams. Response teams are trained and equipped to respond to public health crises and national emergencies, such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks or terrorist attacks. The teams are multidisciplinary and are capable of responding to domestic and international humanitarian missions. Officers have responded to many such emergencies in the past, including:

  • 1999 – Hospital center at Fort Dix, NJ, for Kosovo refugees
  • 2001 – 9/11 terrorist attacks
  • 2001 – Anthrax attacks
  • 2004/2005 – Tsunami and earthquake in Indonesia
  • 2005 – Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
  • 2006 – Earthquake in Hawaii
  • 2006 – Medicine contamination in Panama
  • 2007 – Hurricane Dean
  • 2008 – Hurricanes Gustav and Ike
  • 2009 – Tsunami and earthquake in American Samoa
  • 2010 – Earthquake in Haiti
  • 2010 – Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Response