Cartwright Gets Up-Close Look at Battlefield Care
By Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2008 The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff got a first-hand look at battlefield care when he visited the 455th Expeditionary Group hospital here Nov. 14.
U.S. Marine Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanks Marines for their service during a visit to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 14, 2008. Cartwright visited the base as part of an eight-day USO trip. DoD photo by Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, on an eight-day trip, brought USO entertainers, congressional staff and a Nevada-based regional emergency medical authority, which employs Army National Guardsmen. The tour included learning tactics used by health-care workers.
One of the hospital’s biggest accomplishments is a 96-percent survival rate for combat wounded servicemembers, said U.S. Air Force Col. Douglas Howard, 455th deputy group commander.
The wounded typically don’t stay long at the facility, which is equipped with a 13-bed intensive care unit, because of the robust air evacuation capability here, Howard said. Most patients are flown out by C-17, an aircraft Cartwright said was “phenomenal” because of its flexibility to meet different missions, including air evacuation.
One of the challenges the hospital staff faces is having enough critical-care specialists to meet mission demands. Howard said the specialists were a “low-density, high-demand asset,” and the staff gains unparalleled expertise while deployed.
“There’s nothing similar to this in the United States,” Howard said. “I’ve worked in a variety of other hospitals, and you do not see the injuries that you see here anywhere else.”
The hospital staff gains a breadth of experience here, Cartwright said, that “would take a significant amount of time at ‘general hospital X’ to get.”
The hospital, staffed by both Army and Air Force members, has its share of heartwarming experiences, Howard said. An Afghan woman recently delivered her baby at the hospital with the assistance of military obstetric nurses. Last week, a severely injured soldier came into the hospital and needed a blood transfusion. Within five minutes, the lobby was packed with donors, something Howard said was “absolutely tear jerking.”
The hospital tour was helpful for employers, said Patrick Smith, who employs Guard members at the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority in Reno, Nev. Five of the authority’s paramedics soon will deploy to Bagram and Kandahar.
Although it is a challenge to operate while servicemembers are deployed, Smith said his company will take care of the guardsmen. The authority will provide pay raises to make up any difference in military versus civilian pay, pay for the servicemembers’ health insurance, and work with the families if there are any needs back in Reno, he said.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us as employers that when our men and women are called to duty, we make sure the families only worry about them [the military members] coming back safely,” Smith said. “We need to step up to the plate to help take care of these people to take care of our country. That’s our job to do, and frankly, it’s our duty.”
(Air Force Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump is assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff Public Affairs Office.)