By W. Wayne MarlowSeptember 21, 2017
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- First Army brought its brigade medical officers and senior NCOs here Sept. 19-21 for a summit in First Army headquarters. Topics included Reserve medical readiness, medical logistics, line of duty investigations, and behavioral health.
In opening remarks, First Army Command Surgeon, Col. Lance Cordoni, talked to attendees about the importance of Reserve Component medics and the crucial role First Army plays in helping set them up for success.
"The Army has to rely heavily on the Guard and Reserve to meet mission," he said. We're going to meet mission no matter what, I guarantee you that. But the second- and third-order effects of that are that we have to mobilize the Reserve Component forces, we have to train them, we have to ensure they meet their requirements, we've got to get them out the door. And that's where First Army comes in."
While much of the focus the last 16 years has been on anti-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations, Cordoni noted that those are only some of the scenarios that Soldiers may encounter.
"First Army will have a huge role if the proverbial balloon goes up," he said. "If North Korea comes across the DMZ, if Russia moves further into Europe, we have to respond to that, and there's going to be reliance on the Reserve Component. So what you guys do is critically important."
Cordoni also related a story about a junior enlisted Soldier in his previous unit who was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq, in 2009. The vehicle the Soldier was in was hit by an Explosively Formed Penetrator, resulting in catastrophic injuries. The Soldier lost four limbs and his carotid artery was severely damaged.
Cordoni reported that the injuries were so extreme that some medical personnel questioned the ethics of saving him since his quality of life would presumably be so poor.
But owing to excellent surgical work, the Soldier survived and later was given an unprecedented dual arm transplant. Additionally, he received two prosthetic legs and he surprisingly had no lasting brain damage. He twice golfed with Tiger Woods, appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, and has the ability to drive a car and perform routine tasks such as brushing his teeth and signing his name.
Cordoni took lessons from this deeply emotional experience, which he shared with summit attendees. "First," he said, "Tourniquets save lives. Second, I didn't give this guy much of a chance. But well-trained medics and rapid transport to a combat surgical hospital saves lives. That's where we really come in. I also learned you don't try to determine somebody's quality of life for them. He can now live a semi-independent life and he's happy as a clam. He is alive today because we didn't give up on him."
Such an incredible recovery doesn't happen by chance, Cordoni added.
"What about the training that allowed this to happen? How good were his medics? And it's because of what we do in this room," he said. "It's because of the training we provide. The care that he was provided with brought him from a dusty road in Iraq, missing all his arms and legs, with no carotid artery, bleeding to death…to him being happy and relatively healthy and being a great ambassador for the U.S. Army. It shows what medics can do when they apply themselves. What you guys do is very important. We have to be ready to execute our mission downrange. I want everybody to think about how we train our medics and how we train our care teams to go downrange."
Following Cordoni's remarks, the summit was broken into presentations and breakout sessions. Sgt. Maj. Justin Bereiter said the key focus was on ensuring that that the First Army command surgeon and the brigades were in sync and working toward common goals.
"We're having the summit to pull all the brigade medical elements together so we can talk about any issues and problems we're having," said Bereiter, who serves as the First Army command surgeon sergeant major. "We wanted to meet face-to-face, and we have a new surgeon, so it just kind of fell in line to pull everybody together and make sure everyone understands his mission and vision. It will be successful if people take away key names and places and points of contact, and everyone knows who to reach out to."