By Sgt. Brent PowellSeptember 24, 2010
ATTENTION on the FOB. Attention on the FOB," frequently blares from an array of speakers and echoes across Forward Operating Base Salerno. The announcement is usually followed by code words describing the number of patients inbound on a medical evacuation flight.
Most people on Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, continue their business unaffected, but for the medical staff of the Salerno Hospital the code words mean two things: mass casualties are coming in, and it's about to get very busy.
In one 38-day period during the summer, the staff responded to 39 trauma events and admitted 47 patients. They took nearly 600 X-rays, performed 57 surgeries, conducted 259 CT scans and treated 56 battle-related injuries.
"This is a trauma hospital," said Lt. Col. Gregory A. Kolb, commanding officer, 344th Combat Support Hospital. "It's not a typical hospital like we have in the U.S. Most of our patients are trauma patients."
About 90 percent of patients treated at the hospital are battle casualties who arrive by medevac helicopter. "Most of the injuries we see here are from improvised explosive devices, shrapnel and gunshot wounds," said Kolb.
Salerno Hospital is equipped to provide top-notch care to its patients. It has its own labs, CT scan equipment, radiology section, operating room, pharmacy and more.
"This hospital is completely on par with hospitals in the U.S.," said Lt. Col. Paul J. Schenarts, a trauma surgeon and deputy commander of clinical services, 344th CSH. "We don't lack anything. We are able to get diagnostic results back very quickly here, usually within a matter of minutes. That doesn't happen in the States."
In addition to state-of-the-art equipment and technology, the hospital also has some of the most highly trained staff available.
"Our staff here is very professional and very compassionate," said Kolb. "But, in a trauma hospital, it all boils down to the quality of the surgeons, and, without a doubt, I have the best surgeons out there."
One of those surgeons is Schenarts, a reservist who brings a wealth of knowledge and medical expertise with him. He is a professor of surgery and critical care, as well as the assistant dean for clinical academic affairs, at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.
"To work here, you need your funny bone, your back bone and your brain bone," he said. "I feel like it's not only my duty, but an honor for me to be able to do this. Being able to provide critical care to Soldiers is really wonderful."
Although their main focus is saving Soldiers' lives, the hospital also treats contractors, coalition forces, detainees, Afghan National Security Forces and local nationals on a case-by-case basis.
They recently treated several civilians who had been the targets of an insurgent ambush and massacre that claimed 12 lives. One of the survivors was very happy to be treated by the hospital staff.
"I thank the ISAF forces so much," said Gula Gha, a 28-year-old from Parachinar District, Pakistan. "If it was not for their help, I would have died. I had lost a lot of blood, but the American doctors saved my life. I will never forget them."
With the combination of both the latest technology and highly skilled medical staff, Soldiers can rest assured knowing that should they ever find themselves at FOB Salerno, they will receive the best care possible.
"We provide excellent, quality care, and we treat the best patients in the world...the Soldiers," Schenarts said.
Sgt. Brent Powell is assigned to 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division Public Affairs