Surgery Goes Mobile

The Air Force’s medical support mission and capabilities are rapidly evolving along with service’s undertakings, Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger said Tuesday morning. Speaking at an AFA-sponsored Air Force breakfast in Arlington, Va., Ediger said the treatment of a French soldier wounded during counter-terror operations in North Africa three weeks ago highlighted those changes. After the soldier was shot twice in the chest, his French colleagues took him to a local hospital for care, Ediger said. However, they sought US help after realizing the soldier would not receive adequate care there and that the nearest French field hospital was more than two hours away. Luckily for him, small USAF units, comprised of 8-member surgical and 3-member critical care teams, now relocate across North Africa and set up in locations of opportunity as counter-terror operations shift across an area as large as the continental United States. In this case, the mobile surgical team concluded the French soldier needed immediate surgery, operated on him, administered a blood transfusion, and provided critical care support in a makeshift operating room less cumbersome than a field hospital until he could be evacuated to Europe. “So the first hospital that that soldier saw was actually in Western Europe…,” Ediger said. “And so that’s a quite different scenario from what we were used to seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan.”