Photo Information

Lieutenant Commander Tera E. Van Drunen, emergency room physician with Charlie Surgical Company, 1st Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, gives a class on the proper way to use an ultrasound Feb. 25, during a Medical Augmentation Training Exercise (MATEX).

Photo by Cpl. Robert Medina

Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suite Capability Helps Response Time for Injured Service Members on Front Lines

3 Mar 2010 | Cpl. Robert Medina 1st Marine Logistics Group

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - When service members are injured in the line of duty, it’s imperative to have a good medical team to help them make a full recovery. One team that is preparing to aid and assist in such situations is Charlie Surgical Company, 1st Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group.

A Medical Augmentation Training Exercise (MATEX) was conducted here as a pre-deployment certification exercise to see how quickly and efficiently the team of Marines and Sailors could set up their Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suite (FRSS) and treat patients in a timely manner.

This team is comprised of a Shock Trauma Platoon, surgeons, Navy hospitalmen, Marine radio operators, drivers and utilities men.

“We are trying to test the ability to handle patient flow and the ability to be mobile,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer John R. VanDerwood, senior enlisted leader, 1st Medical Bn., CLB-15, 1st MLG. “The standard and goal for us is to deploy our assets and be set up to receive patients within an hour.”

VanDerwood, from Mobile, Ala., said the mission of 1st Medical Battalion is to train service members who are assigned here from other commands specifically to deploy.

“We are deploying more than 150 sailors and Marines, and most of them were not even here three weeks ago,” said VanDerwood. “It’s a significant feat to be able to have a ten-fold growth right before we deploy and have it work.”

The Marines who are attached with the medical team play an important role in their mission. With duties such as utilitie men, radio operators and drivers, the Marines are an integral part of the mission.

Commander Charles Frosolone, trauma surgeon, 1st Medical Bn., CLR-15, 1st MLG from Oak Harbor Naval Hospital, Wash., explained the process of handling injured servicemembers at the FRSS.

“If a patient is injured and can survive transport to the next level of care we will just have them flown out,” said Frosolone, from Oak Harbor, Wash. “But here, we will handle all the people who might not make that extra trip to the next level of care.”

Frosolone said the kind of surgery they would be doing in the operating room is what they would call ‘damage control’ surgery.

“Our number one priority is to stop the kind of bleeding that you could only stop with surgery and get the patient stable for transport to the next level of care, a place with some holding capacity,” said Frosolone. “We also have a walking blood bank, refrigerators to store blood in for victims, and a big selection of medications for just about anything we might need to do.”

Frosolone said it is very rewarding to be able to help save lives and have this capability close to the front lines and treat patients within that golden hour.

“In today’s military we have been able to lower the casualty rate for personnel injured in combat thanks to our small surgical teams,” said Frosolone.

Petty Officer Second Class John V. Hawley, hospitalmen with 1st Medical Bn., CLR-15, 1st MLG, said he loves what he does and, for him, there is no better job.

“For me, I don’t think there is another more satisfying job than what I am doing now, helping save lives in combat,” said Hawley, from Danbury, Conn. “I am a surgical technician here, and I have to make sure everything is set up the right way. All the equipment has to be in standardized place.”

This is important so if another surgeon comes from another unit he can easily find what he is looking for.

There are five levels of medical care in the military. The first level of care is immediate first aid at the front lines. The second level is surgical resuscitation provided by highly mobile surgical teams that are in direct support of units outside the wire. The third level is combat support hospitals that are big and take time to set up
but have more advanced medical and trauma care. The fourth level is the first echelon where definitive surgical management is provided outside the combat zone. Finally, the fifth level of
care is a major health care center in the U.S.

“This is a level two facility, here we choose life over limb,” said Hawley. “We want to be sure that we can stabilize our injured before we pass them on to the next level of care.”

Medical teams like this should dramatically reduce the time from which service members receive vital care to their wounds and improve chances of surviving their injuries.

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