December 5, 2021

IRT set to return; program seeking volunteers

Photo provided by Innovative Readiness Training program

Spc. Eric Cooper, a dental technician with the 7234th Medical Support Unit out of Vallejo, California, takes X-rays in preparation for the dentist during the Healthy Cortland Innovative Readiness Training event in Homer. Healthy Cortland was one of the IRT events that provided training in a joint civil-military environment. File photo from July 2016.

A military deployment exercise that delivered free health care for thousands of Cortland County residents in 2016 will return this summer, but volunteers are needed to make it happen.

In 2016, the Innovative Readiness Training event was done in conjunction with Chenango County. Combined, Cortland and Chenango’s IRT saw 3,657 patients, performed 17,923 procedures and made $1.8 million in healthcare investment, Leaf has said. This year, the military and the training will return for 10 days from July 11 to 20.

“The volunteer spot is open,” Dan Dineen, director of the Cortland County Planning Department, said about the website. “We have about 15% of the slots filled right now.”

Between 600 and 700 volunteers are needed, Dineen said — around 60 to 70 per day.

“We’re hoping to get as many volunteers signed up by June 1 as possible,” said Jackie Leaf, executive director of Seven Valleys Heath Coalition, which is partnering with the planning department on the event.

Volunteers will have to go through a background check, Leaf said.

Volunteers will also have to go through safety and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act training, which will be provided at no cost to the volunteers.

Anyone looking to volunteer can sign up at

“We have the final planning conference with the military in two weeks, May 21,” Dineen said. “We’re meeting all day at the Hall of Fame Room at the Park Center.”

Dineen said the training has a budget of $41,000. Around $22,000 of that has been spent so far. “We’re anticipating we’ll be on budget for the event,” he said.

Dineen said housing for workers is still in negotiations and transportation is still being planned. Local service agencies will be providing food and water through the days.

The event will be done this year in conjunction with an event in Chenango County. The Homer Central School District has agreed to host the event, again, as well. The event this year will be at the Homer Intermediate Junior High School.

The event helps the military gain expertise in the logistics and planning necessary to assemble multi-branch, multi-specialty healthcare-providing events suitable for response to natural disasters, political upheavals and unforeseen events that can disrupt communities.

At the 2016 event:
• Health providers treated 1,807 patients.
• 7,613 services were provided.
• 725 pairs of glasses were dispensed.

Seven Valleys polled 800 of the IRT patients in Homer and found that 42 percent of them came from the 13045 ZIP code area, with many of the rest coming from Homer. However, some came from as far as Oneida County.