Bravo Company Tent Hospital Turns to Modern-day M-A-S-H

27 May 2003 | Cpl. Jeremy M. Vought 1st Marine Logistics Group

"Incoming helo, patient inbound" echoes through the small tent city of Bravo Surgical Company, Health Services Battalion, 1st Force Service Support Group in central Iraq. Just then the pulsing blades of an Army Black Hawk helicopter kick up sand and dust as the "medivac" lands.

As Marines and sailors run to the helicopter to retrieve the casualties the "Devil Docs" of Bravo put on their war faces..."It's time to save some lives."

During Vietnam, Marines were transported and treated rapidly after an injury due to the small and compact battlefield.

In comparison because of swift desert battle during Operation Iraqi Freedom the battlefield spanned to roughly the size of California. This time, instead of devising a faster way to transport injured back to the rear for care, Navy medical service providers have become more mobile themselves.

To support a fast moving battlefield Bravo Surgical Company is able to break down and set up their mobile field hospital in less than a day.

Once set up in Logistical Support Area Anderson the casualties came streaming in - sometimes one at a time, sometimes-in mass casualty drops.

For four days during the climax of the war over 122 injured Marines, sailors, enemy prisoners of war and civilians were rushed into the Shock, Stabilization, and Triage unit in need of life-saving care.

"That's more than one patient an hour; nonstop," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Sonya M. Hamrick, pharmacy technician.

The SST turns away no one and treats not by order of friend or foe but of "medical necessity" says Cmdr. Robert P. Hinks, officer in charge of Forward Resesitative Surgical System Team 2.

"We provide all the life sustaining needs for patients - basically an Emergency Room in the field," Hamrick said.

Once patients are sustained, they are transported to one of the three operating rooms for surgery. Upon completion of surgery the patient is moved to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit where they are closely monitored while in the post surgery phase.

After the patient is listed in stable condition, the patient is taken to the ward where he will stay for less than 48 hours before being medically evacuated to either a Kuwaiti Hospital, a U.S. Army hospital in German or the USS Comfort which was located in the Arabian Gulf.

Because of Bravo Company's devotion to duty and respect for human life, sleep was secondary in their eyes.

"I get by on drinking a lot of coffee and drive," says Lt. Thomas A. Olson, physician's assistant. "You learn that there are certain situations that you can't worry about sleep. You must focus and get the job done first. I'm glad we have the chance to do this job."

When it came to operating on enemy prisoner of wars and Marines there was a common ground in the doctor's eyes - they're all humans.

"They're all human beings who have souls," said Hamrick, 33. "They all have pain. They all bleed the same, so we must save them all," said the Hiseville, Ky. native.

"If you don't do that you're playing God," said Navy Lt Kevin R. Poole, a Bravo Company physician's assistant from South Field, Mich.

Unfortunately during Operation Iraqi Freedom many brave men and women gave the ultimate
sacrifice - life. During that time numerous Marines came to Bravo Company dead on arrival and Navy Lt. Laura J. Bender, 2nd Medical Battalion chaplain, read them their last rites.

"When I see them I think about their mothers, girlfriends and the things they never got to do in their life," Bender expressed. "They are brave in my eyes and heroes."

"These doctors have put everything aside and are focusing on saving lives," she said.

To the "Devil Docs" of Bravo Surgical Company the rewards never stop coming.

"It's really rewarding to see the Marines faces and hear them say 'doc, I'm going home.' I feel like I'm a Marines hero on a day's basis," Hamrick said.

An injured Marine Hamrick worked on said she was his "lifelong buddy."

"You're my doc," he said to Hamrick. "It's the greatest feeling in the world," she said. "It makes it worth being out here."

Courage as Hamrick says "is the ability to overcome fear and complete the mission."

"Whenever I feel I can't go on I think of that and suck up some courage," she said.

The "Devil Docs" performance during Operation Iraqi Freedom was both revolutionary in the deployment and operation and can be deemed a success by the Marines and sailors who are returning home safe to their families.
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1st Marine Logistics Group