Europe Medics Take Deployments in Stride (corrected copy)
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany, Aug. 20, 1999 As DoD forces in Europe responded to the latest call for U.S. assistance -- the Aug. 17 earthquake in Turkey -- military medics here and throughout the European Theater prepared to lend a hand. Just as they always do.
On call to react to manmade crises and natural disasters, DoD medical specialists -- doctors, nurses and technicians -- can hardly call their tours here routine. Although they provide the standard clinical and hospital care available everywhere, they also keep extra clothes, medicine and equipment packed and ready to go at a moment's notice.
"It's exciting. A year ago, we were responding to the terrorist bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Kenya," said Air Force Dr. (Col.) Peach Taylor, command surgeon of U.S. Air Forces in Europe. "We brought [injured] Americans and Kenyan employees up to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center [near Ramstein]."
During and following Operation Allied Force, NATO's air campaign to relieve strife in the Serbian province of Kosovo, Army and Air Force medical staffs set up and operated field medical facilities. The Army's 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and an Air Force expeditionary medical support unit from the Ramstein-based 86th Medical Group stood up in Albania. Medics from the 43rd Airlift Wing, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., and the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, operated mobile aeromedical staging facilities in Tirana, Albania, and Skopje, Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia.
Also in Tirana, the Air Force operated an expeditionary medical squadron with a surgical team, critical care transport team, flight surgeon and dentist. The composite unit's role was to stabilize patients and evacuate them to Ramstein, but such casualties didn't occur.
Now, the Army medics from Wuerzberg, Germany, are treating civilian casualties of the war as well as providing troop care in the tented 67th Combat Support Hospital at Camp Bondsteel and 299th Forward Surgical Battalion at Camp Monteith. Both camps are located in southeastern Kosovo, where U.S. forces are operating as part of Task Force Falcon. The 52nd Expeditionary Aeromedical Staging Squadron from Spangdahlem supports post- campaign operations in Kosovo from its base in Skopje, and Air Force liaison teams assist medical units throughout the region with aeromedical evacuations into Ramstein.
Under theater control of the European Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe also must meet medical manning requirements for routine deployments to such places as Balikeshir, Turkey, in support of Allied Force, and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to provide health care to participants in Operation Northern Watch, the allied effort to keep Iraqi military airplanes grounded.
To ensure the hospitals and clinics under his purview could meet these and other deployment requirements, Taylor sent medical staff to each location to conduct site surveys and determine exact needs.
"They looked at what services were available on the base, where people could be housed and what the local medical treatment facilities were like," Taylor said. They also visited civilian hospitals to see what services they could provide. "They brought that information back, and that determined what medical capability we laid in," he said.
"For example, when we put a Guard unit into Hungary, we were pretty comfortable with the main hospital in Budapest, so there was no reason to send other than a squadron medical element."
But when ordered to support U.S. operations in Taszar, Hungary, the Air Force put in an air transportable hospital, because it was pretty close to Serbia and they wanted to get a bedded facility in there in case Taszar was affected by the air campaign or retaliatory strikes.
During and following Allied Force, the Air Force has depended on active and reserve component medics from the United States to back fill clinics hit hard by deployment. When Ramstein and Spangdahlem medics complete their turn supporting the Kosovo Force, air reserve component medics will step in, Taylor said.
As Navy ships carrying medical relief steamed toward Turkey and Air Force transports arrived from Dover Air Force Base, Del., with civil disaster response teams, Air Force medics in Europe were waiting to see what their next response role would be.