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After a recent insurgent attack in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, Army Capt. Leyland C. Torres, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regimentâ??s adjutant, does his share to aid a fellow service member heâ??s never met, donating blood at Camp Taqaddumâ??s main surgical facility. Often, service members such as Torres, a 32-year-old native of Oak Forest, Ill., will show up within five minutes of the request going out, said Cmdr. Richard L. Schroff, the officer in charge of Taqaddum Surgical. Since taking over the facility March 3, Schroff, a 43-year-old native of Carrollton, Va., and his unit have used the emergency blood donation system seven times, including a stretch of four out of five days recently. Taqaddum Surgical handles the duties of both a shock trauma platoon and a forward resuscitative surgical suite, which are essentially makeshift emergency and operating rooms. When a service member is injured in battle, he receives specialized resuscitative treatment from the STP, with surgery provided by the FRSS. More extensive care is provided at one of the Combat Army Surgical Hospitals in Baghdad or Balad.

Photo by 1st Lt. Robert E. Shuford

Navy medical unit critical to lifesaving efforts in Iraq

20 Apr 2006 | Cpl. Daniel J. Redding

In Iraq's Al Anbar Province, coalition forces fight terrorists and insurgents daily. For a group of sailors at this sprawling logistics base, casualties from this fighting are an expected part of daily life as they strive to save those service members wounded in the heat of battle.

For the Navy 'Docs' at Taqaddum Surgical, an advanced battlefield medical facility here, it's a welcomed burden and way of life they willingly endure every day of their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

On call around the clock for anything that may occur, the sailors are in a constant state of readiness.

"You never really know when casualties are going to come in," said Cmdr. Richard L. Schroff, the officer-in-charge of Taqaddum Surgical. "There are periods that are quiet, but there is never really an end to the day (for us)."

Since the unit took command of the facility March 3, Taqaddum Surgical has handled more than 150 patients, to include more than 20 Iraqi soldiers, a few locals and even several insurgents.

As personnel from 12 different stateside commands came together here in Iraq to fill the unit's ranks, there was little time to learn new faces before getting straight to work, said Schroff, who also serves as one of the general surgeons here. 

The sailors were forced to quickly work as a cohesive unit to save lives, which is a task they eagerly undertake.

"Everyone is so driven to save the patients, there isn't any conflict in getting the mission accomplished," Schroff said.

When a service member is injured in battle, two needs must meet before further treatment can be given - stabilize the patient's ability to breathe and stop any traumatic bleeding.

The treatment begins immediately at the scene of injury, with basic care administered by  a corpsman or any available service member with the ability to provide basic medical attention in the heat of battle.

Once stabilized, the wounded service member is then transported to either a battalion aid station or a higher level facility like Taqaddum Surgical, depending on the situation and location of the battle, Schroff said.

The military classifies Taqaddum Surgical as a surgical shock trauma platoon, or SSTP, because it has two main elements: a shock trauma platoon, which serves as an emergency room, and a forward resuscitative surgical suite - a battlefield operating room.

Upon arrival at the SSTP here, the wounded are quickly searched and cleared of any possible weapons then receive specialized resuscitative treatment at the makeshift emergency room, which includes providing blood and stabilizing breathing.

The unit often sets up walk-in clinics for blood donation, called walking blood banks, when emergency blood is needed. An email will go to the entire base asking for the particular blood type needed for a wounded service member.

The sailors never fail to receive overwhelming support from potential donors trying to do their part by giving a pint of blood, said Schroff, a native of Carrollton, Va.

"The response we've gotten (from) the base is incredible," said Schroff. "Every time we put out a request, we have donors in 5 minutes. There are buses (suddenly) lined up."

Since their arrival the unit has activated the walking blood bank seven times, said Schroff.

Once the patient has been stabilized, he is sent next door to the operating room if he needs immediate surgery.

If more advanced care is still needed, the patient is then flown to a Combat Army Surgical Hospital at Baghdad or Ballad.

Just as medical personnel are highly respected by fellow service members for their emotionally painful and life-saving duties, Schroff returns that respect to those he cares for, having deep admiration for those on the front lines.

"I have a lot of appreciation for those guys outside the wire," said Schroff, 43. "I think their job is a lot harder than what I do."









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