ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- First Army brought its brigade medical teams here Aug. 23-24 for a summit to give them the tools to better carry out their mission.
Attendees sharpened their casualty treatment skills and heard from Brig. Gen. Jill Faris, U.S. Army assistant surgeon general for mobilization, readiness and National Guard affairs.
First Army is responsible for the training of Reserve Component forces and during its centennial year, First Army Command Surgeon, Col. Lance Cordoni, talked about how this has historically been vital to the nation's readiness.
"General John Pershing said back in 1917, 'We no longer differentiate between Army, National Guard, and Reserve forces. Our purpose is to think only of the American citizen and to prepare him for duties of war.'"
Cordoni then turned to the attendees in the aptly-named Pershing Conference Room of First Army headquarters and asked, "Does that sound familiar? It really should. Recently, this has been strongly echoed. I don't think we could have managed without component two and three Soldiers the last 17 years."
He also touched on the importance of the overall health of the force.
"In four years of World War I, 17 million people died. In 1918, 100 million people died of influenza," Cordoni said. "That should make you think about the importance of disease non-battle injury in operations."
Pointing to a photo of hospital beds full of patients, Cordoni continued, "These are Soldiers at Fort Riley, Kans., in 1918. They hadn't even got to the theatre of war. There's hundreds of them in there."
Cordoni also related the emotional tale of one of his former Soldiers, retired Sgt. Brendan Marrocco, to highlight the importance of high-quality emergency treatment.
In Iraq in 2009, an explosively formed penetrator hit the MRAP Marrocco was riding in, resulting in catastrophic injuries. He lost four limbs, severed a carotid artery, suffered a broken nose, eye socket and facial bones, and lost eight teeth. There was also suspicion he might have traumatic brain injury.
His wounds were so severe that attending medics wondered about the ethics of saving him, considering what his quality of life would probably be. But to Cordoni, "There wasn't any doubt. You did whatever you could for him and press on."
Back in the United States, Marrocoo received a double-arm transplant, just the seventh in the U.S., and Cordoni called him the country's first survivor of a quadruple amputation. He appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman, played golf with Tiger Woods, and is able to lead a relatively independent life.
Cordoni said there were several factors that led to Marrocco's amazing recovery, including "superb care at the point in injury by a combat medical specialist. He never would have made it to the combat support hospital if those tourniquets hadn't been applied, if someone hadn't been kneeling on his neck trying to get that carotid artery to stop bleeding."