JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington -- The 47th Combat Support Hospital, also known as America's premier field hospital, set up an 84-bed field hospital to be fully mission capable in just 48 hours during a 12-day certification exercise coined, Operation "SEANGMYEONG" at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, March 11-22, in order to certify them to be a combat support hospital ready to deploy, fight, sustain and win.
It usually takes 72 hours to set up the hospital, led by their commander, Col. Amal Chatila, the 47th CSH did it in 48 hours. They were operationally capable in ten hours in the emergency medical treatment, 18 hours in the operating room and intensive care units, and fully mission capable in 48 hours for the entire hospital, beating all the timelines listed in doctrine.
"This exercise is very important to understand how we operate as a CSH in a foreign theater, not only operate but actually setting it up," Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Norby, the acting chief ward master for the hospital. "If we go down range and have to set up our own hospital system, knowing the ins and outs of what to do instead of just figuring it out when we get there is very important for real life scenarios."
This exercise not only prepared Soldiers of the 47th CSH for a state of readiness for real world contingencies, but also brought together medical professionals from various skill sets within the CSH and Madigan Army Medical Center.
"We get all of the team together collectively to exercise our capabilities as a combat support hospital and also provide a culminating exercise of the mass casualty exercise in order to stress the team," said Chatila. "It is important for us to know we can still do our craft and save lives on the battlefield."
The medical staff for a combat support hospital include highly trained doctors, physicians, surgeons, laboratory specialists, medics, registered nurses and pharmacist.
"As a medical professional, when we are deployed in support of combat operations, any patient that we are going to see in theater, if we are not trained to see that patient we are going to hurt them," said Spc. Daniel Steele, lab technician, 47th CSH. "So, coming out here and doing that training is preparing us to fulfill our roll and it is critically important that we do that."
The CSH bought 56 medical professionals from Madigan that are assigned to the CSH to the field training exercise. This allowed for everyone to work as a team in a field environment.
"We have a lot of new personnel from the hospital come in to build our team, so it is important to give them an understanding of what we do as a CSH and understand that our mission is of higher quality than we do on a day to day basis and to know we are ready to deploy at this moment with the skill sets that we have in our operational aspects," said Norby.
Organized chaos was expressed by many observers of the training during the 12- day exercise.
"In the emergency medical treatment area, when casualties arrive it is organized chaos and if every team member doesn't not know what is their roll within that team people will die on the battlefield," said Chatila.
During the training, the CSH was externally evaluated on all mission essential tasks to include a level II deployment readiness exercise for all direct reporting units, mass causality exercise, sling load operations, patient management, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear training, drivers training, and casualty evacuation training with aviation support.
"This training for me is important because it is fulfilling, being able to actually see your role as part of this team," said Steele. "If you don't actually do the training and touch base with it, it doesn't give you the desire to improve your skills and become a better lab tech or a better Soldier."