JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –Attendees from various Army medical commands across the military health system are gathered to participate in a Limited Objective Experiment, or LOE, on Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Feb. 7-11, 2022. U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence (MEDCoE), and the Medical Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate (MED CDID), under the Future Concepts Center (FCC), within the Army Futures Command (AFC), hosted the experiment.
The week-long event facilitated working groups and discussions focusing on how the Army Health System (AHS), provides Force Health Protection (FHP), in the future operational environment in order to protect the Joint Force from environmental hazards and health threats in both competition and conflict in order to inform future concepts for the Army of 2030.
Moderator of the event, Col. James Jones, the director of the MED CDID, and an army physician assistant who holds a doctorate in health science, moderated the event. During his welcoming remarks, Jones cited historical examples in which force health protection played a major role in Soldier and unit readiness, highlighting the overall purpose of the event.
“The history of Force Health Protection and the importance of prevention of disease and injury in order to protect the strength and capabilities of our military population is critical for our future Army during large-scale combat operations, multi-domain operations and even during our current COVID-19 pandemic,” Jones said.
He explained that large-scale disease and non-battle injury (DNBI), prevention remains the top priority for the military health system and the total Army.
“Your efforts this week will inform policy and Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel, Facilities and Policy, solutions that will elevate all the way to the Secretary of the Army,” Jones explained to attendees.
Since WWII, deaths attributed to DNBI range from 19% to 46% of total deaths in various conflicts. Equally if not more impactful, in WWII, 83% of days lost were attributed to DNBI versus combat injuries, and as recently as Operation Iraqi Freedom, 79% of air medical transports were conducted due to DNBI versus combat injuries, according to Jones.
“Commanders always report how many tanks, trucks and aircraft they have operational, but if Soldiers are not available to operate them, what good is the equipment?” Jones asked. “We must conserve the fighting strength.”
He stressed the importance of ensuring combatant commanders understand the need to bring Force Health Protection and prevention planning, training and resourcing to a level on par with combat casualty care.
Before he invited Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, Commander, MEDCoE, to make opening remarks and kick off the event, Jones emphasized the link between this week’s experiment and the MEDCoE, the Army’s medical training and education institution.
“As we forge the future of medical support for the Army of 2030 and 2040, Maj. Gen. LeMaster and the MED CDID routinely emphasize the importance of conserving fighting strength,” Jones said. “The Force Health Protection Limited Objective Experiment is a critical event that helps the total Army Health System meet this goal.”
Not only is “To Conserve Fighting Strength” the MEDCoE’s motto and emblazed on the unit colors, training a future medical health professional to provide preventative health measures in a multi-domain environment is also one of the command’s top priorities and will shape future investments in science and technology for the school that trains over 30,000 students annually.
LeMaster said, “This is an important experiment as we are going to get after gaps identified in the force health protection portfolio and identify solutions.”
He remarked how pleased he was to see joint and international partners participating in the effort that he believes will inform joint health systems as well.
“Know that this effort is getting towards Joint Health System and fielding a ready force, whether it’s Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and that is how we fight,” LeMaster said.
During the five-day limited objective experiment, over 100 in-person and virtual subject matter experts from across the health system enterprise were given an AFC scenario depicting U.S. military forces conducting operations across an extended geographical region in the 2035 timeframe. The scenarios provided various vignettes to examine conceptual methods to conduct FHP missions while surveilling, identifying, mitigating and communicating health threats, risks and hazards.
The results of the experimentation will be briefed to Army senior leaders through the FCC, and the AFC. Jones said the hand-picked experts will deliver analysis and proposed solutions to complex problems in the form of information papers and briefs produced through their contributions to the LOE this week that will help drive how the Army spends future funds and conducts future research in the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command.
“It is going to be a long week for participants,” Jones said, “but it is invaluable.”