Texas State Guard's Medical Brigade is looking for physicians and other medical personnel willing to volunteer their time and expertise during disasters.
The Medical Brigade is one of four branches of the Texas State Guard, which is frequently confused with Texas' National Guard units. However, the State Guard is not an armed force, and it serves only in Texas or in other states, according to the Texas Military Department website.
The Texas State Guard Medical Brigade, known as the “Texas Medical Rangers,” typically is called up only for disaster relief. For instance, the Medical Brigade set up clinics in areas that were affected by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
The State Guard's Medical Brigade was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, says Jonathan MacClements, MD, who is an associate dean and designated institutional officer at The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School and a colonel in the State Guard.
At the time, National Guard units were being sent overseas in large numbers, and state officials were concerned that emergency responders would be short-handed during a natural disaster. They created the Medical Brigade to help fill that gap.
"Your job is to make sure the soldiers themselves are well taken care of [during natural disasters], and then to take care of civilians as requested by the civilian leadership in the community," Dr. MacClements said.
The Medical Brigade is comprised of trained, licensed, and certified health care professionals and medical support personnel who support state and local public health authorities during disasters.
Members are required to serve 200 hours annually, according to the Texas Military Department website. They live at home and generally drill or train at a facility close to their community — usually for only one day per month. The length of active-duty deployments can vary, but most last no longer than two weeks.
In addition to emergency medical response, members participate in an annual exercise — called Operation Lone Star — that brings free health services to six sites in the Rio Grande Valley for five days in July. These include dental, hearing, vision, immunizations, sports physicals, and treatment plans for people with chronic conditions, Dr. MacClements says.
"It's one of the most satisfying experiences I've had as a physician because you go down and take care of people in their time of need," he said.
Requirements for the Texas State Guard include being:
- A resident of Texas for at least 180 days;
- A U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
- Between 18 and 70 years old; and
- Able to undergo a criminal background check.
For more information, go to the Texas Military Department website.