By Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Out of all the Airmen who work at the 19th Medical Group, few have the job of an independent duty medical technician.
“There are approximately 500 IDMTs in the Air Force,” said Tech. Sgt. Tiffani Cook, 61st Airlift Squadron, independent duty medical technician. “We are a very small career field.”
Though there are a small number of IDMTs in the Air Force, Cook stressed that their level of importance is anything but small.
“We are specifically trained to operate in deployed locations,” Cook said. “Along with that, we are able to work in many different fields of medicine.”
Independent duty medical technicians are knowledgeable in dentistry, pharmaceuticals, blood work, logistics, assessments, diagnostics, public health and bio environmentalism.
The IDMT career field is only available to enlisted Airmen. An Airman must be a medic for four years before they can apply for the position. Though one can volunteer to become a technician, the job is not guaranteed. As for technician training, many describe it as rigorous and extensive.
“I recently came back to Little Rock after graduating IDMT school,” said Staff Sgt. Shannon Tedford, 48th Airlift Squadron independent duty medical technician. “It was rough. We studied every single day to learn how to be providers. It wasn’t easy, but I like being a jack of all trades.”
Since IDMTs are prepared to work in deployed locations, at least one of the five IDMTs at The Rock is deployed at any given time.
“When we deploy, we play medic and doctor roles when they are unavailable to deploy with a unit,” Cook said. “We get to do almost any job you’d see in a hospital.”
The medical technicians are educated on a variety of career fields in the Air Force. The job that they perform depends on the base or mission.
“One deployment, I ran an entire pharmacy,” Cook said. “But we could also do a job that requires looking for environmental hazards or conducting food inspections. I’ve also had to provide counseling to troops for mental issues.”
Here at Little Rock Air Force Base, a technician is assigned to each active-duty flying squadron.
“Normally we don’t function in a medical group,” said Cook. “But being versatile is kind of a must for our job. For instance, my next assignment will be at Lewis-McChord Joint Base, Wash. I will be the only IDMT to ensure combat controllers are ready to leave at any second.”
The technicians are unique in more ways than one.
“Unlike most jobs in the Air Force, we don’t get to perform superintendent roles. When we rank up, we perform the same tasks that we would have done before. We provide the same service regardless of rank,” said Cook.
“Our job is one of a kind,” said Cook. “It can be stressful with the deployments, but I love it.”
When deployed, IDMTs use their wide range of knowledge to monitor the health of Airmen and other troops. Airmen cannot deploy unless they are healthy, nor can they operate in deployed locations unless the care from providers is ensured. Independent duty medical technicians play a vital role in ensuring mission readiness both locally and abroad.