Division medical officers follow 'Hawkeye's' steps
January 20, 2010
Lt. Col. Henry Blake wasn't available for an in-brief or a complimentary glass of bourbon, but around a dozen 2nd Infantry Division medical officers toured the site of the last Korean mobile army surgical hospital during an officer professional development event conducted Dec. 17.
Now called "Installation 1398" by its Republic of Korea Army tenants, the facility was known as "Camp Mosier" when occupied by U.S. and Korean medical teams.
Two buildings formerly used by American medics to conduct examinations and administer treatment remain from the days when American medics treated patients on Camp Mosier. The 43rd Mobile Surgical Army Hospital - which inspired the book and hit television series about the triumphs, travails and flirtations of Army doctors and nurses during the Korean War - once occupied the site.
"M*A*S*H," based on a 1968 novel by Richard Hooker, spurred a feature film of the same name in 1970 as well as the famous sitcom, which ran from 1972-1983.
The OPD, organized by the Division surgeon's office, provided the officers - most of them planners, operations officers and platoon leaders of 2nd ID medical organizations - an opportunity to learn about the structure and mission of sister ROK medical units as well as visit the site that inspired the pop culture classic.
In lieu of Col. Harry Potter or Maj. Frank Burns, the operations officer and medical officer of the 103rd Engineer Battalion of the 6th ROK Corps briefed the Warrior medical officers. The briefers described ROK medical assets, activities and responsibilities. They also responded to queries on structure, workload and daily life.
After farewells and a few pictures with ROKA counterparts, the officers boarded government vans for the brief return trip to nearby Camp Red Cloud.
The OPD concluded with a working lunch at the Commanding General's Mess on CRC. The medical officers discussed issues impacting the Warrior medical personnel, units and missions as well as lessons gleaned during the visit to Installation 1398 during chow.
Maj. Todd Speer, the deputy Division surgeon and event organizer, described the OPD as informative and productive.
"It's good to engage our Korean counterparts, particularly on one of their own bases," Speer said after the trip. "I think it helps to develop the relationship. The more of these kinds of events we can do the better."
"It's important we have a solid grasp of their resources and capabilities," he added. "In the event of actual war, we'd be coordinating closely with Korean caregivers, so an understanding of their organization and capabilities is important to our success. The MASH aspect just added a human interest angle to the OPD."
According to Capt. Dan Heffner, the DSO medical planner, the combat support hospital, which replaced the MASH as the standard Army field hospital, facilitates far better care than its famous predecessor. The CSH, Heffner noted, "is more mobile and also has a wider array of health care providers. It's better equipped and has more capability in general."
The MASH, first assembled in 1945, became the basic Army field hospital unit by the time of the Korean War. CSHs increasingly replaced MASHs during the late 1970s and 1980s. The last MASH based in Korea closed shop in 1997. The Army deactivated the last MASH in 2006.
Participants in the OPD agreed the most substantive lessons came from the Korean briefers.
"It was interesting to see how they live and operate," said 2nd Lt. James Appel, the leader of Evacuation Platoon, C Co., 302nd Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "I was surprised by the number of medics assigned to their units."
The pop-cultural dimension, however, clearly enlivened the event.
"I'm from Toledo, where Jamie Farr (who played Cpl. Klinger in MASH) is from, and everyone talks about MASH there," said 2nd Lt. Jeremy Schiel, the leader of Treatment Platoon, C Co., 302nd BSB. "So I found the MASH theme interesting. The ROK medical officers were also very engaging - they obviously put a lot of emphasis on this event. They gave a good presentation."
"It was pretty cool to see a fixed spot where they provided medical support - this place is sort of tucked away so we drive by all the time without noticing," said 1st Lt. Annie Wheeler, the 302nd BSB medical support officer. "So much of what we see here is based on the Korean War. We realize they were constantly moving during the war, so they worked out of tents a lot. It's nice they have a couple buildings preserved to show what the conditions were like."