MEDEX-16 shows next evolution of military medicine

| September 9, 2016 | 0 Comments
Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Wrighton Jr., the senior enlisted adviser for 18th Medical Command (Deployment Support), and Air Force Sr. Chief Master Sgt. Chi Swanson, the acting superintendent for the 35th Medical Group Base Hospital at Misawa Air Force Base, Japan, visit with Soldiers and Airmen working in the urgent care department during Joint Medical Exercise 2016, Aug. 23.

Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Wrighton Jr., the senior enlisted adviser for 18th Medical Command (Deployment Support), and Air Force Sr. Chief Master Sgt. Chi Swanson, the acting superintendent for the 35th Medical Group Base Hospital at Misawa Air Force Base, Japan, visit with Soldiers and Airmen working in the urgent care department during Joint Medical Exercise 2016, Aug. 23.

Story and photos by
Sgt. 1st Class John D. Brown
18th Medical Command (Deployment Support) Public Affairs

MISAWA, Japan — Providing health care in times of crisis can be the most challenging task for the military health care system, and for the men and women of the armed forces who provide those lifesaving services, Joint Medical Exercise 2016 (MEDEX-16), here, provided a unique opportunity to exercise those deployment readiness skills, Aug. 16-24.

The concept of the exercise was simple: Bring an Army medical unit from the United States, draw medical supplies from Army Prepositioned Stock with the assistance of the U.S. Army Medical Material Command and the U.S. Army Material Command, transport the equipment 750 kilometers by ground, and establish a joint medical treatment facility (MTF) in Japan that is capable of providing immediate support to personnel who are injured or otherwise dislocated during a natural disaster type, or other contingency type event.

“This is more like our crawl phase,” said Air Force Sr. Master Sgt. Chi Swanson, acting medical group superintendent for the 35th Medical Group at the Misawa Air Base Medical Treatment

Maj. Gen. James Pasquarette, commanding general, U.S. Army-Japan; I Corps (Forward), tours the modular surgical component of a combat support hospital deployed from the Army Prepositioned Stock during Joint Medical Exercise 2016 at Misawa Air Force Base, Misawa, Japan, Aug. 24.

Maj. Gen. James Pasquarette, commanding general, U.S. Army-Japan; I Corps (Forward), tours the modular surgical component of a combat support hospital deployed from the Army Prepositioned Stock during Joint Medical Exercise 2016 at Misawa Air Force Base, Misawa, Japan, Aug. 24.

Facility. “We have discussed plans for doing this in the future, but we had to make sure that this exercise was going to be successful.”

In Misawa, there are Navy doctors working with them on a daily basis, so it was truly a joint exercise, Swanson continued.

“One of the keys to deployment support in the medical arena is the integration of joint medical services working together,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Wrighton Jr., senior enlisted adviser, for the 18th Medical Command (Deployment Support) at Fort Shafter, Hawaii.

Wrighton explained that the 18th MEDCOM is charged with the planning, training and supervision of medical units/exercises in the Indo-Asian Pacific region during peacetime while remaining ready to deploy command elements throughout the region during humanitarian aid, disaster relief and combat operations.

Soldiers from the 228th Combat Support Hospital (CSH), 807th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command at San Antonio, Texas, joined the Air Force and Navy team at the Misawa MTF to compose the MEDEX-16 team.

Air Force Col. Leigh A. Swanson, commander, 35th Medical Group, said that one of the significant missions for the unit is its support to contingency operations.

“What we do here at the hospital is expand to a critical care facility and become an air evacuation location,” Swanson said, explaining that the hospital is staffed with approximately 400 personnel, which would be inadequate during contingency operations. “We take on a significant amount of follow-on forces and the biggest component of that is the Army.”

Col. Elizabeth Anderson, commander, 228th CSH, said the 228th’s initial mission was to conduct an Army Preposition Stock draw from Sagami Army Depot to exercise the logistics train from Sagami to Misawa in order to support contingency operations.

U.S. Air Force Col. Leigh A. Swanson, commander of the 35th Medical Group Base Hospital, and Army Col. Elizabeth Anderson, commander of the 228th Combat Support Hospital, brief senior leaders from the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command, Regional Health Command-Pacific, and the Japanese Defense Force on the progress of Joint Medical Exercise 2016 held at Misawa Air Force Base, Misawa, Japan, Aug. 16-24.

U.S. Air Force Col. Leigh A. Swanson, commander of the 35th Medical Group Base Hospital, and Army Col. Elizabeth Anderson, commander of the 228th Combat Support Hospital, brief senior leaders from the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Command, Regional Health Command-Pacific, and the Japanese Defense Force on the progress of Joint Medical Exercise 2016 held at Misawa Air Force Base, Misawa, Japan, Aug. 16-24.

From a logistical perspective, the exercise served as an opportunity for the Army to validate and verify plans to establish a combat support hospital in Misawa and the ability to integrate personnel and logistics with the MTF, Anderson explained.

“This (228th CSH) team, here, has been so easy to work with. There have been no issues at all,” Col. Swanson said.

Swanson pointed out that during an actual contingency operation there would probably be a different unit tasked with establishing the CSH in Misawa, but given how well the exercise had progressed, she didn’t foresee any issues with integration.

“Most importantly was the integration of forces. … It isn’t Army working in tents and Air Force working in the hospital; its Soldiers and Airmen working side by side,” Swanson said.

In order to afford the greatest amount of integration, Army and Air Force leaders developed a program that matched surgeons with surgeons, nurses with nurses, medics with medics, etc., to ensure that individuals with similar professional skills are paired together throughout the duration of the exercise. The purpose was for Army to learn Air Force and Air Force to learn Army, Swanson said.

“As we look at the way ahead, and the example we have of joint training at the Army Medical Department Center and School, the future of Army Health Systems in contingency operations will be in a joint environment, and this has been an excellent step in the evolution of that process,” Wrighton said.

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Category: Deployed Forces, Exercises, Leadership, News, Training

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