Expeditionary Medical Force Brings Optimal Readiness to Pacific Region

By Inkyeong YunOctober 13, 2021

U.S. ARMY GARRISON-HUMPHREYS, PYEONGTAEK, REPUBLIC OF KOREA – Challenges often bring the creativities out of people. In this case, the creativity resulted in bringing optimal readiness for high-quality operationalized medicine here.

The 121st Field Hospital of the 549th Hospital Center recently introduced an innovative way to increase medical Soldiers’ proficiency and competency by enhancing access to the field hospital equipment.

This new format of field hospital training was due to the unique mission required of the 549th HC Soldiers for providing both Armistice healthcare while remaining ready for any possible hostilities on the Korean peninsula.

From June 18 to Aug. 25, the 121st brought its field equipment to Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital, a fixed medical facility, where a majority of the 121st's Soldiers work daily to provide armistice health care. The 121st's detachments conducted hands-on training on the field equipment and Soldiers’ Mission Essential Task List and Individual Critical Task List without requiring Soldiers to leave their day-to-day workplaces.

The three medical detachments under the 121st FH, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, the 125th Medical Detachment, and the 129th Medical Detachment, set up static displays of Operating Room, Intermediate Care Ward and Intensive Care Unit inside BDAACH. This allowed up to 40% of 549th HC Soldiers to conduct military occupational specialty- or area of concentration-specific training. In total, 86 ICT trainings were conducted.

The new initiatives contributed to a significant increase of the ICTL and METL compliance rate by 22%, which directly translates to the readiness of the medical force on the Korean peninsula. Soldiers also have gained a deeper understanding of the FH functions in an expeditionary setting.

“Through this training, I got to practice suturing on an eggplant and received some hands-on training of the field sterilizer, which was unique because you typically don’t use this in fixed medical facilities,” said Daisy Gibbons, an operating room technician.

“It was nice to have this kind of training inside of the hospital," Gibbons said, "because it gave me easy access to an opportunity to keep my METL up-to-date and also learn more in-depth about the field hospital setup.”

Gibbons shared that she feels more confident in her abilities in performing critical medical procedures in an austere environment.

Since the 121st Combat Support Hospital's conversion to the 549th HC in September 2019, the unit has been focused on enhancing combatant commander flexibility and delivering optimal health service support. The 549th HC has completed a comprehensive unit readiness exercise to validate fully operational status.

“This training serves as a great reminder for the hospital staff what our true purpose is as Soldiers and medical personnel,” said Capt. Christopher Flowers, the 125th Medical Detachment commander, who led the static display training of the ICW mission.

“Being proficient with our field hospital equipment is a critical factor for us to be ready to save lives as a medical warfighting unit out there when we transition to hostility," Flowers added.

The Hospital Center and its direct reporting units haven’t been deterred from maintaining the “Fight Tonight” readiness posture, despite a priority shift to combating COVID-19.

Lt. Col. Hee Kim, the 121st FH commander, emphasized how important understanding the field hospital equipment is to perform as scalable medical assets on the battlefield.

“We train as we fight and fight as we train. Knowing how to set the field hospital up and operate the field hospital will save a significant amount of time and that is directly linked to our capability to save lives,” said Kim.

“As one of the field hospitals of the 549th HC, we understand our role as scalable medical assets and will always be ready to respond on a moment’s notice,” Kim added.

The 549th HC is the only unit of its type in the active-duty Army that consists of two fully equipped FHs and a medical detachment capable of treating, providing damage control surgery and evacuating patients to a higher echelon of care.

The modular design of the hospital provides the flexibility to tailor and deploy capabilities as modules that can be incrementally increased as needed. The 549th HC embodies a true agile ready medical force in the U.S. Army.