CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea - Improving the health and resiliency of service men and women on the Korean peninsula and maintaining a “Fight Tonight” readiness are cornerstones of the medical mission of the 65th Medical Brigade and its subordinate units.
On May 1 at the Camp Humphreys Multi-Purpose Training Range, the 502nd Field Hospital of the 549th Hospital Center, along with the 568th Medical Company Ground Ambulance and elements from the 1st Signal Brigade and 51st Medical Group from Osan Air Base, culminated the end of a nine-day field training event with a Mass Casualty Exercise (MASCAL) to test the units’ medical capabilities in an austere environment.
This was the first time that the 502nd has deployed and established its 32-bed Field Hospital since the Combat Support Hospital to Field Hospital conversion back in March 2019.
Days prior to the culminating event, the unit successfully deployed Air-Supported Tents utilizing all components (generators, power cables, power distribution boxes and lights) for the Emergency Room, Operating Room, Intensive Care Unit, Intermediate Care Ward, Laboratory, Pharmacy and Blood Bank.
“It was important for us (502nd) to pivot our focus back to readiness, particularly having focused an entire year on the COVID fight,” said Lt. Col. Sarah Torres, commander of the 502nd Field Hospital. “Daily our medical personnel can be seen providing armistice health care at the Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital (BDAACH) or one of the outlying medical clinics. By pivoting the training back to readiness and refocusing on our equipment, is vital for us in the event we transition to hostilities.”
Balancing daily medical skills with the COVID mission and military training requirements, the opportunity to come together as unit and put their processes in place in an austere environment was indeed challenging.
“The site (Humphreys Multi-Purpose Training Range) is a perfect location for us being so close proximity to the BDAACH, in that we can take care of any real-world situation that may arise,” said Torres. “It was unique in that it was the first time that we were able to get the entire unit together for training instead of (piece meal) section by section.”
Other units within Eighth U.S. Army and the 7th Air Force collaborated with the 502nd.
Elements of the 1st Signal Brigade deployed with the unit to provide more capability to communicate and Soldiers from the 339th Quartermaster Company were on hand to assist with water distribution.
The 51st Medical Group served as Observer Controllers providing an outside perspective to the unit on what they observed in order for the unit to learn and grow for future exercises. U.S. Air Force personnel also assisted with the moulage of the casualty patients.
Torres said that the unit plans to conduct future field training exercises at Humphreys and Daegu, and jointly with its sister service at Osan Air Base.
Providing Role II care at the Field Hospital, the patient is treated in a medical treatment facility staffed and equipped to provide care to all categories of patients, including resuscitation, initial wound surgery damage control surgery and post-operative treatment.
“The Soldiers not only improved their proficiencies on their Modification Table of Organization and Equipment but how to provide patient care in a tactical environment to further enhance their understanding on the (Field Hospital’s) Role III capabilities,” said Torres. “We count this exercise as a success by testing our standard operating procedures, battle drills and processes to continue to improve each and every time that we deploy.”
In 2019 the former 121st Combat Support Hospital converted from its 248-bed legacy and were constructed into the 549th Hospital Center with two 32-bed field hospitals (121st FH and 502nd FH) task organized underneath it. Four additional detachments – the 129th Medical Detachment (32-bed surgical), the 150th Medical Detachment (32-bed medical), the 125th Medical Detachment (60-bed ICW) and the 135th Field Surgical Team - provide a ‘plug and play’ hospital system for deployment depending on the conditions of the battlefield.
The 549th HC became the first fully doctrinally organized hospital center in the Department of the Army with a fully converted and staffed field hospital.