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Fort Campbell’s 86th Damage Control Resuscitation Team provides essential medical support to Operation United Assistance
Written by Sgt. Dani Salvatore
Monrovia, Liberia – Medical emergencies: something no one likes to think about but that everyone needs to prepare for. Troops deployed in West Africa are often in remote areas of operation, and accidents, injuries, and illness are always a possibility. Fortunately, the Army can address critical health concerns in theatre.
The 86th Damage Control Resuscitation Team, 86th Combat Support Hospital, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is a one-of-a-kind medical team operating in the Joint Forces Command – United Assistance Field Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, capable of facilitating life-saving interventions and surgeries to personnel, specifically designed for missions like Operation United Assistance.OUA is a mission supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development-led comprehensive U.S. Government and international effort to contain the Ebola outbreak in
“We are a 17-man surgical element that is responsible for life, limb or eyesight, damage control, resuscitation, (and) surgery,” said Capt. Melanie Bowman, a Camden, Tennessee, native and the officer in charge of the team. “We can do whatever we need to do to save somebody’s life.”
OUA’s mission presents unique operational challenges for the Army’s medical field. Sergeant 1st Class Jason Morgan, a Brunswick, Maine, native and 20-year Army medic, said he has been on many deployments but has never been part of a team like this.
“Most (Forward Surgical Teams), when you go to Afghanistan or Iraq, you fall in on hard facilities, buildings, structures, things that are already in place,” said Morgan. “Here, what you see is what you get; this is it.”
To compensate for the remote location, the team brought all the equipment they would need from the 86th CSH.
“We came in with eight (shipping containers) and the bags on our back,” said Morgan. “Everything we have here we resourced and made for ourselves.”
From those materials, a fully functional field hospital was constructed, complete with two trauma beds, an intensive care unit and surgical triage, providing the necessary facilities and equipment to perform critical treatment.
In addition, the hospital is stocked with medicines for illnesses more likely to occur in West Africa such anti-venom for snakebites, said Bowman. Some provisions they have on hand would otherwise be unavailable. The field hospital maintains the only blood products – such as plasma – in West Africa.
The team includes six medics, three operating room technicians, three surgeons, two certified registered nurses, and two registered nurse assistants, said Morgan. The collection of personnel has the expertise to carry out all essential processes, including diagnostic assessment, sedation, and surgery.
The team’s capabilities and resources are substantial, allowing them to carry out life-saving efforts in a remote location; however, Bowman said this is accomplished with a lot of support.
“We are not a self-sustaining element, and without the support of the units that are around us, it would be very difficult for us to maintain this mission and provide this life-saving resource to Soldiers on the ground here in Africa,” said Bowman. “We have had an amazing relationship with these units on the ground.”
Bowman credits the 101st Sustainment Brigade and 86th Combat Support Hospital, both out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, along with many other units for delivering support for their mission.
It is clear the team and facility’s capabilities have the means to keep Soldiers on mission.
There was one instance where a Soldier was able to receive extensive treatment and return to duty for OUA, said Morgan.
“She had an infected hand,” he said. “Pretty much, her range of motion was gone.”
The team performed the surgery needed to address the infection at the field hospital and did not need to evacuate her, said Morgan. She was able to continue her mission for OUA provided she complied with follow-up appointments.
This scenario exemplifies what Bowman said is the best part about her job: knowing she is there to take care of Soldiers when they need it so that they’re able to make it safely back home to their loved ones.
Topics101st Airborne Division, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 27th Public Affairs Detachment, 86th Combat Support Hospital, Africa, Camden TN, Ebola, Fort Campbell KY, Joint Forces Command, Liberia, Monrovia LIberia, Operation United Assistance, West Africa
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