Medevac system takes Soldiers from battlefield to hospitals
July 28, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, July 28, 2011 -- Soldiers that are wounded or become ill down range are brought back to Fort Hood on a medical evacuation, or Medevac, aircraft resembling a flying emergency room staffed with experienced medical personnel who keep constant watch over their health needs, delivering them to the caring greeters at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
“They deserve nothing less. These men and women have made the greatest sacrifice to serve their country, and we owe it to them to provide the best possible care we can,” said Col. Patrick Sargent, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, or CRDAMC, commander, and former Medevac pilot who last served as chief of staff for the Army's Warrior Transition Command.
Sargent knows the importance of making every Medevac mission a success.
“It’s never been as important to build on Army medicine’s culture of trust than when it comes to Medevac flights."
“So they can carry on the business of protecting our freedom, Soldiers, and their families, need to trust that we will do what’s necessary to help heal their wounds. Army leadership also needs to trust that we will ensure their warriors are fit to fight,” he added.
Medical evacuation involves more than just getting a wounded Soldier off the battlefield. It is a multifaceted mission requiring a combination of dedicated ground and air evacuation personnel who synchronize with medical support units. Together, they transport wounded or ill Soldiers to the appropriate Army medical treatment facility for the appropriate treatment. Soldiers’ wounds may or may not be combat-related.
Typically, Soldiers injured downrange are delivered to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and then sent to a stateside facility. Depending on the nature of the care required, they may go to Walter Reed (now the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center) or Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, or to Fort Hood. While the majority of cases do go to Walter Reed or BAMC, Darnall receives almost 200 patients a month on average.
Referred to as Operation Gentle Landing, the evacuations to CRDAMC began in 2003, and manpower and resources have grown since then to accommodate the increasing number of wounded, according to Capt. John Kiraly, deputy chief of CRDAMC’s Patient Administration Division, who oversees Medevac missions at the hospital.
“There is just so much involved in Medevac missions. The amount of detail and coordination required to get these wounded warriors to where they need to be is tremendous, and you can’t afford to overlook even one detail,” he said. “No mission is the same, and even with the best laid plans, there will always be changes. That’s what makes our team so outstanding. They are ready for any contingency.”
“Whether it’s a simple or complicated pickup, whether the Soldiers have battle or non-battle related injuries, the team works tirelessly to make sure each mission goes off without a hitch,” he said. “Soldiers, their families, their units, the American public, can all trust us to take care of our wounded warriors.”
Eighty percent of the Medevac patients coming to CRDAMC are non-battle related injuries.
“Whether or not the injuries are combat-related, all Medevac missions involve a lot of manpower and coordination. We handle all the details required for the individual patient. This includes arranging for specific medical needs and transportation, keeping track of personal belongings, handling all administrative paperwork, helping make any arrangements for family members and making sure there’s someone from the unit is there for the Soldier,” said Regina Foster, manager of Patient Accountability and Affairs.
Normally, Foster said, they will have three to five patients arrive at one time. They use ambulances for small pickups, and also have specially-equipped buses that can hold up to 16 litters if required.
A designated Medevac team greets each arrival. While team members vary according to the nature of the mission, Medevac staff is usually accompanied by paramedics, a pharmacy tech, litter bearers, escorts and a department of social work representative. There are team members who stay behind at the hospital to coordinate details such as gurneys, doctors and other medical technicians, and unit representatives.
“It’s a total team effort. It’s not just one person or one department, it’s all of CRDAMC. We tap into resources as needed, whether it’s for bus drivers, radiology techs or chaplain’s assistance,” said Ernest Howery, Medevac coordinator. “It is a huge commitment of time. But just the satisfaction in knowing that you did a good thing for someone who has given so much makes it all worth it.”
Kiraly agreed that working Medevac missions is rewarding. He has seen both sides, having worked on the “sending” side of evacuations while deployed.
“When you’re there at the point of the injury, especially serious injuries, emotions can run high. You just want to do whatever you can to help your fellow Soldier,” he said. “That’s why every Medevac mission is important. It always makes you feel better knowing you’re doing something to get Soldiers the help they need"to get them home to their family, to get them on their way to recovery.“
Sgt. Antonio VanDyke, a 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment Soldier from Fort Hood said he appreciated the hard work and effort of the Medevac CRDAMC team during his recent arrival. VanDyke, who hurt his left shoulder during an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq, said that the team really took good care of him.
“Immediately I could tell that they genuinely were concerned about me and would help me any way they could,” he said. “The time I spent with the doctor at Darnall was the most productive evaluation I received all along. At other places, I had to ask around for people to help me with my bags, but here, they were right there ready to help me.“
“The whole Medevac process -- dealing with the pain and long travel -- can be overwhelming,” VanDyke said. “But these guys were so upbeat. I know I don’t have to worry about anything.”