Iwakuni’s new flight line clinic will save pilots trip across base
Stars and Stripes August 9, 2006
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — When a wayward bug temporarily blinded a pilot on the north side of base last week, he didn’t have far to go for medical help.
A newly created medical clinic on the north side — about 1½ miles from Iwakuni’s Branch Medical Clinic — has enabled squadron Marines to shave hours off time lost due to routine medical care, said Cmdr. Michael Jacobs, flight surgeon for Marine Aircraft Group 12.
Instead of taking a 40-minute bus ride to the main clinic, servicemembers now can visit the north side Flight Line Aid Station, or FLAS, for operational care, such as physicals and inoculations, and primary medical care.
“It used to be [for] a simple rash — they’re gone half the day,” Jacobs said.
The FLAS concept existed in the Marine Corps in the past but gradually disappeared as medical treatment was consolidated into base clinics about a decade ago. But one at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and another at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa — both part of the 1st Marine Air Wing, also MAG 12’s parent unit — have continued to operate successfully, Jacobs said.
Air wing leaders looked at the idea for such a facility at Iwakuni in May, and by July it was up and running. On Monday, the FLAS received computer hookup, allowing it to fully integrate into the military medical system and the branch medical clinic, Jacobs said.
He said he expects the clinic to see about 300 patients a month.
The FLAS is somewhat bare bones. The building, mothballed for a decade, now sports a waiting room of old chairs in a bay a few feet from empty fuel containers and used furniture.
The clinic doesn’t have a pharmacy, lab, radiology facilities or dental and eye clinics. For those services or for serious illness or injuries, servicemembers still go to the branch medical clinic, Jacobs said.
For squadrons based on the south side of the flight line, the main base clinic and its flight-surgeon-staffed Active Duty Acute Care Clinic (ADAC) is still the closest option for care.
Since the ADAC is located in the clinic, it’s funded by the Navy, which provides medical care for the Marine Corps. However, since the FLAS is separate from the clinic, it is funded by the Marines, Jacobs said.
The FLAS allows flight surgeons, who are part of individual squadrons but can treat anyone, to work more closely with their own units.
Jacobs notes that although the furniture might be a bit tattered, the FLAS is a modern and fully capable facility for the care it handles. Once the decision was made to create it, the base facilities department converted the dusty old building into a clean, shiny working facility complete with a giant red cross out front.
Jacobs said already he’s noticed people seeking care more quickly than in the past, since servicemembers can pop in to the clinic to have a sprain looked at or a cough checked out.
“Having it right there, we will see injuries and illnesses before they get out of hand,” he said. “It’s a facility that I feel will instill confidence in our users, our Marines and sailors.”