LAREDO, Texas – A group of about 40 students and faculty from the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi College of Nursing and Health Sciences volunteered to provide a concentrated effort of care to those in need.

The Islander students and faculty, along with members of the Texas A&M Colonias Program and more than 200 U.S. Army personnel, traveled to Laredo from June 19 to 29 to provide healthcare, improvements to infrastructure and other services to improve the quality of life for those living in Colonias. 

Colonias are rural subdivisions or communities that lack some of the basic living necessities, such as sewer systems, electricity and safe and sanitary housing. Due to substandard drainage, these areas remain flooded for weeks after a heavy rain and those living in the Colonias live submerged in toxic waste. 

There are an estimated 3,000 to 10,000 residents in the Colonias in Webb County who will receive care during this two-week period.

“Islander Nursing and Health Science students are taking classroom experience and translating it to the real-world experience with underserved populations,” said Dr. Mary Jane Hamilton, Founding Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “The students are working with the Army Health Care Providers to deliver primary health care, vision screening, and dental care. In addition, the students will learn military health care missions and the delivery of health care education and methodology.”

Services provided by military personnel are done as part of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Innovative Readiness Training (IRT), a civil-military program that builds mutually beneficial partnerships between U.S. communities and DoD to meet training and readiness requirements for active, guard and reserve service members while addressing public and societal needs. 

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp and A&M-Corpus Christi Interim President and CEO Dr. Kelly Quintanilla, visited Webb County on Tuesday, June 27, to take part in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. This memorandum, also signed by Lt. General Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Army North Commanding General, and Stephen D. Austin, Assistant Chief of Army Reserve, will facilitate a strategic and mutually beneficial relationship with intentions to continue these IRT efforts multiple times a year.

Along with health services being offered during the two-week IRT, the U.S. Army Reserve Engineer Services will receive practical training while working to improve a two-mile stretch of roadway at one Colonia community. The road currently becomes unusable during storms, forcing children to stay home from school and families to miss work.

Additionally, soldiers spread out five acres of soil at another Colonia community sports complex, giving children a safe place to participate in extracurricular activities. Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers Service are providing personnel to distribute surveys to an estimated 500 households across nine different Colonias. The collected data will be given directly to Webb County officials to assist them with developing and delivering solutions to enhance the quality of life for Colonia residents.