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Wolfowitz Salutes Military Health Care Providers

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2005 – Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz today praised the worldwide efforts of military doctors, nurses, medics and other care providers, noting they are "maintaining the health and the effectiveness of America's defenders."

President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the entire Defense Department "deeply appreciate the fantastic job that you're doing," Wolfowitz told attendees at the annual TRICARE Conference here.

And, in time of war, Wolfowitz noted, military health care providers help "to ensure the security and freedom of the American people."

Wolfowitz observed that military medical personnel have demanding jobs and are often deployed to dangerous environments to treat wounded troops. Stateside- based military medical personnel, he noted, also labor to guard the health of the families of deployed servicemembers.

Selfless service performed by armed services medical people "contributes to the morale and effectiveness of our service men and women," Wolfowitz said.

"Thanks to you," Wolfowitz told conference attendees, "our men and women serving on the front lines can go about their missions with the confidence that can only come from the knowledge that while they are deployed, the most dedicated medical team in the world is watching over their loved ones."

American military medicine has a long tradition of public service and altruism, Wolfowitz pointed out. Research performed by U.S. Army Dr. Walter Reed, he said, led to the eradication of yellow fever that had threatened both troops and civilian populations.

During World War II, he added, military researchers developed life-saving antibiotics like penicillin, as well as a vaccine against typhus. The U.S. military, Wolfowitz noted, also first isolated the virus that causes Asian influenza.

Having recently returned from a tour of regions ravaged by the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami, Wolfowitz attested to the efforts of U.S. military medical personnel who've been assisting stricken Indonesians and other peoples affected by the disaster.

"The help of U.S. armed forces is greatly appreciated," Wolfowitz pointed out, noting military medical professionals likely saved "tens of thousands of lives" in tsunami-ravaged areas.

Researchers like Navy Cmdrs. Marlene De Maio and Steve Parks and Army Col. Geoffrey Ling, all physicians, assisted in the development of improved body armor that's used today by American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, Wolfowitz said. The new, more effective armor incorporates biomechanics research, the first time that was done in developing such gear, he noted, and has saved many troops' lives.

And, U.S. medical teams deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, "have raised battlefield medicine to a level beyond anything" that was imaginable before. He also praised the quality of military health care available for injured servicemembers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, and at the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Md.

Wolfowitz acknowledged that even improved body armor couldn't protect troops against every wartime hazard. Yet, modern battlefield medicine that's practiced in Afghanistan and Iraq teamed with prompt evacuation of the wounded have resulted in "the lowest mortality rate ever seen in modern warfare," he said.

The reduced battle-death rate is due in large part to "the whole team of dedicated professionals" who serve in the military's medical-care community, he said.

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Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz

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