Mobile surgical unit exercises muscles, proves capable

23 Jan 2007 | Lance Cpl. Geoffrey P. Ingersoll 1st Marine Logistics Group

They mobilize in minutes.  Within the hour, they are in striking distance of the enemy. 

But it's not so much the enemy they're worried about.

Taqaddum Surgical's Forward Resuscitative Surgical System, or FRSS, "provides close support of coalition forces involved in combat," said Cmdr. Scott R. Reichard, a 43-year-old TQ Surgical medical directorate from Longbranch, Wa.

This modern-day M.A.S.H.'s (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) mission is to "allow front-line troops to have immediate access to a surgical capability that they never had in any previous war or conflict," said Reichard.

The team brings general surgeons, anesthesiologists, operating room technicians, nurses and corpsmen to the fight, and is equipped with the latest life-saving technology.  And they follow assaulting units every step of the way.

At least two surgical units set up behind the main sort of action, said Navy Lt. Marko J. Radakovic, a 30-year-old flight/shock-trauma-platoon nurse from Los Angeles.  The two then 'leapfrog' over each other as the front line advances.  When one group packs up to move forward, the other group takes all of the casualties.

"We have to be prepared to stay awake for twenty-four hours (or more)," said Radakovic.

The commander of each mobile surgical team hand-selects every member of the unit.  Service members must be motivated, have high technical skills, and excellent communication, said Reichard.

"We hope to get Field Medical Service School or Fleet Marine Force Corpsmen (for the team)," said Radakovic, "(sailors who) know a lot more about Marines so that they can help better on the front."

"We're right there on the frontlines for whoever is trying to punch through a conflict... so the stuff you are going to see ... you want to know what you are doing before you get out there," said Seamen Alvaro Carrillo, a 20-year-old corpsman from Rio Hondo, Texas, who has completed the FMSS.

Alvaro added that corpsmen have to be ready to act as nurses, and nurses as doctors, if the situation demands it.

"If our convoy hits an (improvised explosive device), we may be minus a quarter of our members, we still need to move forward and complete our mission, so we need determined individuals," said Radakovic.

"If I can't do my job, the corpsmen step up and do it," added Radakovic.

Though they have yet to deploy the unit this year, the corpsmen and doctors at TQ Surgical practice their mobile surgical capabilities every week.  A few sailors said the practice has improved their speed and the bond between team members.

"We have to get out there and be set up within forty-five minutes to an hour, and be ready to take patients and do full blown surgery within an hour," said Carrillo.

Carrillo said that everybody works to unload equipment and raise the large operating-room tents, regardless of rank.

"This unit is kind of cool... commander (Tracy R.) Bilski is the smallest one and she carries the same load as everyone else," said Carrillo, "we have to do the maximum with the bear minimum, so we have a good bond, and everybody works together as a team."

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1st Marine Logistics Group