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Patrick NCO flies 3,000 miles to lend helping hand

Staff Sgt. Sharde Owens, 65th Medical Operations Squadron ophthalmic technician, is on a temporary duty assignment from Patrick AFB, Fla., after volunteering to fill a manning assist position at the Lajes Field Optometry clinic for 7-weeks, allowing Lajes’ primary ophthalmic technician, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Peck, the opportunity to attend NCO Academy at Ramstein AB, Germany.  The Lajes Field Optometry clinic is staffed with one optometrist and one ophthalmic technician who complete up to 45 visits per week. (Photo by Lucas Silva)

Staff Sgt. Sharde Owens, 65th Medical Operations Squadron ophthalmic technician, is on a temporary duty assignment from Patrick AFB, Fla., after volunteering to fill a manning assist position at the Lajes Field Optometry clinic for 7-weeks, allowing Lajes’ primary ophthalmic technician, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Peck, the opportunity to attend NCO Academy at Ramstein AB, Germany. The Lajes Field Optometry clinic is staffed with one optometrist and one ophthalmic technician who complete up to 45 visits per week. (Photo by Lucas Silva)

Staff Sgt. Sharde Owens, 65th Medical Operations Squadron ophthalmic technician, prepares Staff Sgt. Valenté Thompson, a bioenvironmental engineer, for an eye exam. The Lajes Field Optometry clinic is staffed with one optometrist and one ophthalmic technician who complete up to 45 visits per week. Owens is on a temporary duty assignment from Patrick AFB, Fla., after volunteering to fill a manning assist position at the Lajes Field Optometry clinic for 7-weeks, allowing Lajes’ primary ophthalmic technician, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Peck, the opportunity to attend the NCO Academy at Ramstein AB, Germany. (Photo by Lucas Silva)

Staff Sgt. Sharde Owens, 65th Medical Operations Squadron ophthalmic technician, prepares Staff Sgt. Valenté Thompson, a bioenvironmental engineer, for an eye exam. The Lajes Field Optometry clinic is staffed with one optometrist and one ophthalmic technician who complete up to 45 visits per week. Owens is on a temporary duty assignment from Patrick AFB, Fla., after volunteering to fill a manning assist position at the Lajes Field Optometry clinic for 7-weeks, allowing Lajes’ primary ophthalmic technician, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Peck, the opportunity to attend the NCO Academy at Ramstein AB, Germany. (Photo by Lucas Silva)

LAJES FIELD, Azores -- The Lajes Field Optometry clinic is staffed with one optometrist and one ophthalmic technician who complete up to 45 visits per week.

Recently, an opportunity for professional development left the Optometry clinic at a 50 percent manning shortage.

When Tech. Sgt. Kevin Peck, 65th Medical Operations Squadron ophthalmic technician, was selected to attend the Kisling NCO Academy, a manning assist request was sent out.

After receiving the e-mail, an Airman from Patrick AFB, Fla., immediately volunteered to fill the position for a 7-week temporary duty assignment at the Lajes Field Optometry clinic.

On Nov. 4 Staff Sgt. Sharde Owens, an ophthalmic technician from the 45th Aerospace Medical/Dental Squadron, relieved Peck of his duties, allowing him to attend the professional development course on Ramstein AB, Germany.

"This is a one doctor, one technician clinic," said Owens. "So when he's gone, someone has to be pulled from another base within our careerfield to do a manning assist. We're a small careerfield, so manning assists pop up every few months."

Owens said she was very excited to be selected for the position. Usually NCOs chosen for these types of one-man shops have previous experience in running a clinic by themselves, and she was well suited for the position.

"At Patrick AFB, we're a one-doc clinic also, but I have a civilian technician there," she said. "I get a little help, but at the same time, I still know how to run the clinic by myself."

Dr. (Maj.) Tara Jayne, 65th MDOS optometrist, said she appreciates Owens' assistance.

"I can't get my job done without a technician here," said Jayne. "We work hand-in-hand. She gets the patients booked, gets everything started, and she knows triage well enough to know what's going to happen by the time the patient's in my chair.

"This gives me time to get prescriptions done, figure out what's wrong with the patients and then back to the technician to sort them out."

Owens stays busy screening patients, ordering glasses, fitting contact lenses, attending meetings and completing other NCO duties. As her careerfield is a combination of both optometry and ophthalmology, she is also qualified as a surgical technician as well.

"Sometimes we get deployed as surgical technicians, but most times we get deployed as ophthalmic technicians," she said. "We go through surgical training, but not just for eye surgeries; we assist in all surgeries. It's pretty much based on where you get stationed."

Although her careerfield usually participates in a number of humanitarian missions, Owens said she has not yet had that opportunity and Lajes Field is her first overseas base.

"In our careerfield, we don't get deployed often," Owens said. "We do a lot of humanitarian missions in third world countries and hundreds of patients are seen a day. Major Jayne has done many of those."

Jayne has done humanitarian missions in places, such as the Dominican Republic, Thailand, the Philippines and Djibouti, where the language was foreign, yet still she took care of up to 200 patients per day.

"That's why I was able to do a 110-student screenings in two days," Jayne said.

On Nov. 5 and 6, Owens assisted Jayne in completing in-depth screenings on 110 kindergarteners through fifth grade students at the Lajes Elementary School.

"I landed on the evening of Nov. 4; and then I was in uniform and working at 5 in the morning, even through jetlag," said Owens, showing her dedication to teamwork.

"It's definitely an advantage for her to fly out here and help me out," said Jayne. "She's an awesome teammate."

Owens said she enjoys her TDY on Lajes but misses her 6-year-old daughter. Jayne, who also has 6-year-old twins, said she is able to relate.

"This is the first time I've been away from her for this long, and she had to transfer schools to stay with my parents in another state as part of our Family Care Plan," said Owens.