By Sgt. Sarah EnosSeptember 20, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - It is almost as if one walked into a scene from "M*A*S*H," however, instead of a setting during the Korean War, soldiers are caring for patients from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Operation Black Bear, an exercise conducted by the 47th Combat Support Hospital, allowed soldiers to operate out of their 44-bed Early Entry Hospital Element Sept. 16-20. Medical personnel practiced treatment on both real and simulated patients for a hands-on working experience in a field environment.
Maj. Soraya Turner, operations officer, 62nd Medical Brigade, said their organization is unique because the health care providers practice their clinical skill sets on a daily basis, but don't do it in a combat support hospital.
"The health care staff works at either one of our troops medical clinics or sometimes at Madigan," said Turner, a native of Santa Rosa, Calif. "So for us, the focus of this exercise is really just getting the hospital out of our containers and having the staff work in it."
Compared to a full capacity 284-bed CSH, the EEHE is smaller in size and can quickly deploy and operate as a self-contained unit. If the force needed additional hospital assets later, medical commanders and planners could deploy the remaining hospital augmentation elements.
During the exercise, the 62nd Med. Bde. routed sick-call patients from their Troop Medical Clinic to the EEHE for routine treatments of coughs, colds, sprains and other minor injuries.
The staff assessed the condition of incoming patients, provided medical treatment and if needed, transferred the patient to appropriate areas of the hospital.
"We don't get to do this every day," said Spc. Marcial Dino, radiology specialist, B Company. "When working in a field environment it brings reality to the fact that you are not going to have as much space to maneuver around and you really have to assert yourself when making the patient a priority in chaos."
Also working in the EEHE and attached to the combat support hospital was the 250th Medical Detachment (Forward Surgical Team). Patients volunteered to have surgeries performed by the FST to provide vital training for surgeons, nurses and medics. Doctors completed seven operations in their tent including umbilical hernia repairs and removal of cysts.
When Soldiers were not treating patients, time was spent becoming more familiar with equipment and practicing for potential disastrous events.
First Lt. Sophia Tripop, who is responsible for the Intermediate Care Ward, said the exercise helped carve out time for her to get to know the medics on her team.
"A lot of my time is actually spent in the hospital, so I get very little time to train my medics," said Tripop, a native of Toms River, N.J. "Most of my noncommissioned officers conduct the training, so this week was a really good experience for me to get a baseline."
At the end of the week, soldiers in the 47th CSH had their skills put to the test during a simulated massive casualty situation.
"They caught us off guard for the MASCAL," said Maj. Tom Clayton, head nurse, intensive care unit. "They flooded us with more patients than we could handle, but we did considerably well."
The 47th CSH met their mission to care for patients without compromising their health and also worked together to practice the way a CSH should run.
"We don't get to do this every day, so when we do, we take advantage of it," said Dino, a native of Houston. "We learn from our mistakes and come together as a family, because these are the people we will be deployed with."
As the exercised came to a close the 47th CSH commander, Col. Ronald L. Krogh, said it was a great opportunity for his soldiers to practice using their field equipment in an environment closely related to what they would see in combat.
"I'm very proud of how my soldiers performed," Krogh said. "It just reinforces our training plan. They did fantastic."