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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005

Part IV

Sustaining the Campaign

Chapter 13
Taking Care of Soldiers


Moving Emergency Treatment Closer to the Front Lines in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM

In October 1993 the Army Medical Department began overhauling its deployable units in a process that would evolve into the Medical Reengineering Initiative program. A post-Gulf War analysis revealed that many of the Army’s medical units and equipment were too large, too slow to deploy, and lacked the mobility to keep up with the pace of offensive combat operations and the dispersed nature of unconventional operations. As a result, the Medical Reengineering Initiative imposed change in several key areas: the creation of smaller but better equipped combat support hospitals (CSHs), the adoption of new forward surgical teams (FSTs), a reorganization of combat medical skills and training, and greater emphasis on evacuation out of the theater of operations to stateside medical care.11

FSTs, designed in 1995, were mobile units consisting of 20 medical personnel including doctors, anesthesiologists, and nurses who provided resuscitative medical care to Soldiers before their arrival at CSHs. An FST was a self-contained surgical suite or detachment that could be assembled within 60 minutes and moved directly behind the troops. The team included mobile diagnostic imaging machines, traction devices, and mobile operating rooms capable of providing life-saving trauma care to wounded Soldiers. FSTs were also equipped to handle post-operative care for up to 6 hours.12 If Soldiers needed more than 6 hours of care, team medical personnel would first stabilize them and then arrange for transportation to the rear for further care. During the mobile operations of March and April 2003, FSTs moved forward, staying close behind the combat units to receive and treat casualties, while the CSHs initially remained in Kuwait. As Major Mark Taylor of the 782d FST explained, “If a Soldier is shot, his buddies or himself provide initial first aid. . . . Then immediately they can be brought to us by helicopter or truck. Our job is to stop the bleeding, or protect their airways so they can breathe without the assistance of a machine. If they’re shot in the intestines, we stop the soilage.”13 As the campaign transitioned to full spectrum operations in May 2003, the FSTs tended to merge into the CSHs, which deployed into Iraq and established operations at selected forward operating bases (FOBs) set up by Combined Joint Task Force–7 (CJTF-7).

Chapter 13. Taking Care of Soldiers

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