Combat Medicine in Today’s Army

I’m so pleased to have Nelda Copas return for a look inside military medical operations.

Welcome back, Nelda!

From surgical care to physical therapy to blood supplies, the military medical system is moving its assets closer to the front lines to be more responsive to patient needs and, when possible, to return wounded troops to duty faster.

At the same time, the military is boosting know-how about treating combat casualties so everyone on the battlefield, regardless of job specialty, knows the most basic steps to take to help save a life.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan represent the first time these concepts, which the Army started introducing about eight years ago, are being applied in combat. A commander of the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston, TX, said the trend reflects research about injuries, particularly trauma injuries. “What we have found is that the sooner you get to people after they have been wounded, the better your chances of saving them,” he said.
That’s particularly true of injuries involving extensive blood loss, because that’s what kills people on the battlefield if they don’t die instantly. So the sooner we can get the medical people to them, the better the outcome. Recognizing the importance of quick care for wounded troops, the Army started beefing up its training programs — introducing a three-day combat lifesaver course taught to all soldiers in their units and creating a whole new job description for combat medics, who receive their training at Fort Sam Houston.
In addition, the Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute here prepares doctors, nurses, physician assistants and other medical service corps professionals from all military services for the rigors of combat and the challenges of providing patient care on the front lines. Even more important as increasing expertise about combat lifesaving is, getting it as close as possible to the patient.
In response, each Army company typically includes four to five combat medics, who operate “right there where the action is happening.” In addition, forward surgical teams, 20-person units that include three surgeons and an orthopedic surgeon are being assigned at the battalion or brigade level. These teams move alongside the combat forces during the early, “maneuver” phase of operations in Afghanistan, cutting medical evacuations, when necessary, to less than 20 minutes.
These teams offer not just trauma care, but also a full spectrum of services ranging from physical therapy to preventive medicine. So not only can we treat them far forward, we can prevent them from getting sick and needing to get evacuated.
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Nelda Copas graduated with a BS in Psychology/Criminology and a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling both from Western Kentucky University. She has worked extensively with law enforcement and is frequently a workshop presenter on the topic of Serial Killers. Nelda retired from the United States Army, where she worked as a nurse and combat medic. Twisted Desires was her debut novel, which was followed by it’s sequel Twisted Revenge. She lives with her husband near Fort Knox, Kentucky. Nelda is currently working on the third installment of the Detective Delsey MacKay series, a true crime novel, and a young adult zombie apocalypse novel. www.neldacopas.com

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