Medical and Dental Readiness
What is it?
The rigors of modern combat in austere environments demand that Soldiers be physically and emotionally prepared for the associated stress. Medical and dental readiness is an important component of the overall preparation of Soldiers and units for deployment. The Army requires well-trained and -equipped combat medics and health care providers to sustain Soldiers during deployment and to restore Soldier readiness upon their return. This includes periodic dental and health assessments, timely clinical treatment, and behavioral health screening and treatment to cope with the stresses of combat deployments.
What has the Army done?
The Army conducts predeployment health assessments on every deploying Soldier in addition to annual dental examinations and periodic health assessments. More than 36,000 Soldiers have been evacuated from the Central Command theater of operations since October 2001. Nearly 90 percent of battlefield casualties survive their wounds due to a combination of improved Soldier protective equipment, advanced tourniquets and blood-clotting bandages, basic Emergency Medical Technician–certified combat medics, a rapid aeromedical evacuation system, and resuscitative surgical care placed far forward on the battlefield. More than 31,000 Soldiers have undergone medical care for determination of their fitness for continued service. Approximately 79 percent of these Soldiers are returned to full duty in both the active and reserve components.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The Army Medical Department is working closely with the Army, Navy, and Air Force to improve individual medical and dental readiness reporting. The Medical Protection System contains available medical and dental information on every Soldier and is accessible to commanders down to company level. Unit status reporting will be revised in FY08 to include four categories of Soldier medical readiness. These categories will provide commanders a better overall assessment of their Soldiers’ individual medical and dental readiness. The Joint Theater Trauma Registry provides clinical information on casualties that can be merged with operational data to improve Soldier protective equipment and outcomes. Since 2006, the Army has opened 16 Medical Simulation Training Centers around the world and will open five additional centers in 2008. These centers focus on sustaining Combat Medic and Combat Lifesaver skills using virtual-patient simulators and updated tactical combat casualty care doctrine. In January 2006, the Army implemented a postdeployment health reassessment to evaluate the physical and mental well-being of Soldiers 90 to 180 days after return from deployment.
Why is this important to the Army?
Soldiers are the centerpiece of Army combat formations. Medical and dental readiness is an important factor in allowing Soldiers to function effectively on the modern battlefield. Army medicine allows Soldiers to remain in the fight and maximizes the ability of the Army to retain trained and experienced Soldiers if they become ill or injured. Decreased mobilization timelines reduce the time available for medical and dental screening before deployment. Therefore, commanders must have tools to monitor medical and dental readiness along with a robust, responsive medical system that can provide required care quickly. Once deployed, essential medical and dental care located far forward on the battlefield allows the Army to sustain Soldier readiness and to quickly return the ill or injured Soldier to duty. When Soldiers cannot be returned to duty quickly, they are evacuated and provided a level of care designed to return them to duty at the highest level of medical or dental readiness possible.