An effort from the military to advance its training efforts is set to benefit thousands in Savannah next week who need free healthcare.   It’s called Operation Empower Health and it will be the flagship exercise this year by the Department of Defense.  (Translation: the biggest) 

“We’re bringing everybody here to Savannah from all over the country, again it will be about 400 to 500 troops from all walks of life,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Magnet of the 165th Airlift Wing of the Georgia National Guard.  “It’s going be National Guard, reservists, active duty it will be Army, Navy Air Force and Marines.”

The 165th Air Lift Wing will lead the operation and says this is valuable IRT (Innovative Readiness Training,)  “IRT is a novel approach to training in the military which allows us to complete our training requirements and at the same time taking care of our community members so instead of going to a pretend location and having pretend patients, now we’re able to do it for real.”

And many in the community are applauding the effort which actually started some two years ago when St. Joseph’s/Candler made an application for this kind of training to be held in Savannah.  
Adam Walker with  St. Josephs/Candler says it’s been a long process but one that will culminated in health services, dental services and even eye exams for those in need. “in Chatham County we have a high poverty level and often with poverty there’s a correlation with a high number of uninsured,” said Walker.  He says the services expected to be provided by the military couldn’t come at a more important time for the population that cannot afford a doctor visit.

Military personnel will set up medical clinics at four locations in Savannah. 

Georgia Southern University is also helping to assist in the massive operation.  It is providing a location for one of the clinics and will also  help house hundreds of military personnel on campus. In terms of community benefit, Dr. Christopher Curtis, Vice President of Georgia Southern Armstrong and Liberty Campus Operations told us “It’s the opportunity for no cost healthcare it’s a fantastic opportunity for the average person to be able to come out.”

It’s estimated that up to 5,000 people (maybe more) will be served by the military clinics.  There will even be veterinarian services for those with pets (at the Savannah Civic Center.)

And Lt. Col. Magnet stresses this is one time patients in need won’t have to worry about getting a bill.  It is all free. “This is rewarding to be able to not only get my training accomplished but then also to be able to take care of my community and my neighbors,” he said. 

What you need to know:

When: May 10-18

Hours: Services begin at 8 a.m. Last patients should be checked in at 4 p.m.


·         Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Avenue

·         Georgia Southern University – Armstrong Campus, University Hall, 11935 Abercorn Street

·         Garden City Recreational Department, 160 Priscilla D. Thomas Road

·         Savannah State University, Tiger Arena