Nearly 60 Soldiers from Medical Treatment Facilities (MTF) throughout the United States augmented the 131st Field Hospital (FH), 528th Hospital Center, during a field exercise at Fort Bliss, Aug. 13-17.
The exercise validated operational readiness of the 131st FH while providing valuable training opportunities for Soldiers outside of the 131st FH as part of the U.S. Army's Professional Filler System (PROFIS), designed to provide clinical specialties to U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM) units in support of operations in a deployed environment.
The week-long exercise tested the readiness of Soldiers assigned to the unit but currently practicing in Military Treatment Facilities across the U.S.
"It's important to bring those (PROFIS Soldiers) in because each individual is assigned to a unit. Reaching out to them, staying in contact with them and bringing them in when we do training events builds a team," said Lt. Col. Deon Maxwell, commander, 131st Field Hospital. "We have Soldiers organic to us here but all the clinical providers and experts work at hospitals all over the United States and sometimes (outside the Continental United States). When we bring them in they provide the level of expertise and training to help our soldiers with their clinical skills."
In addition to training Soldiers with the 131st Field Hospital, a FORSCOM unit with a 148-bed capacity, PROFIS Soldiers also adapted to the new layout and capabilities of the field hospital after recently converting from the Combat Support Hospital (CSH) in April 2018.
"(The field hospital) is a bigger footprint than the CSH was," said Capt. Kelly Degler, a perioperative nurse at William Beaumont Army Medical Center and PROFIS to the 214th Surgical Detachment, one of three mobile detachments assigned to the 131st Field Hospital. "(In a CSH) Soldiers would split off to cover other (medical units) short of personnel, but (the field hospital) is being tailored to the mission they are going to take on. There's mobility as far as how they support missions going forward."
The field hospital is the highest level of care available to Soldiers in combat zones before being transported to larger medical facilities outside of the theater of operations.
According to Maxwell, one of the most important takeaways from the exercise was the experience and knowledge shared amongst Soldiers.
"Some of our PROFIS (Soldiers) are very experienced. They've seen CSH set up, have been deployed multiple times, but we also have some Soldiers who have never deployed or seen a field hospital set up or even a CSH setup," said Maxwell. "It's value added for the PROFIS (Soldiers) and value added for us. Plus, we get a chance to build morale and relationships with leaders."
For Degler, who has previously deployed to Baghdad while assigned to a CSH, the exercise also provides an opportunity to get back to basics, as he trains Soldiers in the clinical setting.
"There's certain ways we do things at a hospital that is different in a field environment," said Degler, a Dallas native. "This is more tailored to specific injuries, we're doing a little more trauma based cases, the (131st Field Hospital) personnel that we're training with are very energetic, want to learn, and it makes it easy to teach whatever knowledge we have."