“This is a historical moment,” said Army Col. LaConnia Dandy, commander of the Army Reserve’s 256th Combat Support Hospital, “because CSHs don’t jump.”
Jumping, or moving a hospital on the battlefield to maintain proximity to advancing units, is a large logistical undertaking.
A CSH, pronounced “cash,” is so large that moving one after it’s been established requires several days of packing equipment and tearing down tents, and outside resources to physically pick up the equipment crammed into containers capable of holding more than 500 cubic feet of materiel, and flatbed trucks to haul the hospital to the new location.
“Historically, because CSHs are huge, we require lift support to move,” explained Dandy. “As a combat support hospital, we are not very agile and we can’t sustain ourselves without the assistance of other support companies.”
The 256th Combat Support Hospital has been identified as a Ready Force X unit, which are Army Reserve units expected to maintain a readiness posture that would allow it to deploy within days or weeks. The 256th CSH is postured to be the next hospital to be deployed.
“Based on the current threat, jumping the CSH is a necessary capability because the survivability of soldiers depends on it,” Dandy said.
Hospitals on the Battlefield
The goal of a CSH is to minimize the distance from the point of injury to the location of advanced treatment. They resemble civilian hospitals in that they have the capability to provide the most basic to the most advanced trauma care, from dental, to CT scans, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, and head trauma care.
“Because our unit is an Army Reserve unit, we have an advantage [over] our active-duty counterparts,” Dandy said. “The majority of our soldiers work in the medical field as our daily jobs as civilians. This allows us to think outside the box, be innovative, and remain up-to-date with the most current and successful treatment plans.
Due to the Geneva Conventions, medical personnel can only carry a weapon for self-defense, so a CSH must also be wary of advances from the enemy, Dandy said. In a combat zone, if a hospital takes heavy artillery fire or is in danger of being overrun by the enemy, it must be capable of jumping to ensure its patients are kept safe. Evading the enemy is a secondary benefit to the 256th Combat Support Hospital exercising its capabilities to jump in a timely manner.
“We exercised our ability to jump in a training environment so we know, and have the confidence necessary, to jump in a real-world scenario,” said Dandy.
This month, the unit took advantage of Combat Support Training Exercise 18-03 to flex its jumping muscles.
“Now that we’ve set this model, it can become a norm and an expected course of action for all CSHs to be capable of performing,” Dandy said. “We will continue to grow in confidence and should we deploy, the 256th will be ready for anything -- even a jump.”