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Army Medical Program Makes Changes to Benefit Soldiers

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2006 – The Army medical system provides superior care, but officials are always looking to the future and working to improve the system for soldiers, the deputy surgeon general of the Army said here today.

The war on terrorism has taught Army medical officials a lot about what they can do to better benefit soldiers, and changes are planned to do so, Army Maj. Gen. Joseph G. Webb Jr. said at the State of the Military Health System 2006 Annual Conference.

The Army is continuing to refine combat health care as feedback comes from soldiers on the ground, Webb said. This conflict has necessitated medical care to be closer to the action on the battlefield, and a network of skilled medical professionals cares for wounded soldiers from the battlefield all the way to the United States, he said.

Air evacuation is an area in which the Army, with the help of the other services, has done very well, Webb said.

"This is one of those joint, unified, interdependent systems that requires participation and expertise by all the services," he said.

The Army has been using new technology to benefit soldiers on the battlefield, Webb said. A new tourniquet and bandages that control bleeding are among the supplies recently added to soldiers' first aid kits, he said.

The Army also is making improvements to how it cares for wounded servicemembers who require rehabilitation, Webb said. A new rehabilitation facility, the Intrepid Center, is being built at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and capabilities are being added to what will soon be the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

In addition, the Army is looking at ways to retain grievously wounded soldiers who want to continue their service, Webb said. Many of these young people loved what they were doing and there are many jobs they could still perform, he said.

"We're trying to salvage more than just replacing limbs; we're trying to salvage soldiers," he said.

Weight-control standards also are being modified to help keep quality soldiers in the Army, Webb said. The current system has some flaws, he acknowledged, so a new system will be tested in which soldiers who pass the physical training test will not be administratively punished for being overweight.

"It's just another attempt to retain more good soldiers," he said.

The Army is making other improvements to its health system, like implementing the new electronic medical record, establishing a medical simulation training center for medical personnel, and developing plans for a unified medical command with the other services, Webb said. No matter what changes are made, he stressed, the focus of the medical system always will remain where it belongs: with the servicemember.

"The constant through all of this is the warrior," he said. "The warrior is the bottom line; that's why we're here."

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Maj. Gen. Joseph G. Webb Jr., USA
Army Medicine

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