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47th CSH share knowledge, overcome challenges

5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Published: 12:00AM November 24th, 2015

Soldiers from the 47th Combat Support Hospital braved rain, flooding and strong winds Nov. 18 during a field-training exercise at Joint Base Lewis-McChord while simultaenously welcoming a special delegation from Vietnam, including senior operations officers and two physicians who were learning hospital set-up procedures.

The two-week event gave the 47th CSH the opportunity to train on their METL tasks and showcase their capabilities while building a lasting partnership.

The Vietnamese People’s Army is developing U.N. medical capabilities for peace keeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief situations. The U.S. Army Pacific Command requested the 47th CSH share their expertise with hospital set-up and operation.

“The best way for the Vietnamese to get a grasp of the magnitude of this operation was to come during our exercise,” said Col. Jennifer Caci, commander, 47th CSH. “We based our scenario in South Sudan, specifically because we wanted to mirror what the Vietnamese would confront with disease and socioeconomics.”

The CSH built an operational 32-bed hospital with most of the capabilities of Madigan Army Medical Center.

Although setting up the hospital was not easy, the Soldiers and their leadership worked to accomplish the task, even as they faced torrential rain, wind and flooding.

“When it comes to the impact of weather, this is the most significant I’ve seen on an operation,” Caci said. “The rain came fast and accumulated really quickly. We ended up with significant amount of standing water in the TOC, in the hospital and a little bit in the sleep tents.”

Due to weather, the unit reconfigured the hospital; Soldiers from the laundry and bath section became a flood team, pumping water out around the clock.

“It’s great that this has shown them how to respond, but really what it’s done is allow Soldiers to realize that when conditions change, they can adapt,” Caci said.

This training also afforded the unit time to work on issues from previous FTXs. The CSH completed exercises last September, February and May. The final exercise combined all training into one culminating experience.

“For the past 14 months we have been working up to the level that the CSH has achieved by looking at a variety of our METL tasks and then slowly building the complexity of the exercises we execute,” Caci said.

Aside from setting up the hospital, the Soldiers conducted recovery operations, force protection, CBRN tasks, set wire around the perimeter and built fighting positions, a laundry facility and kitchen — all in an effort to provide the best care for patients.

According to Caci, the CSH is a Role III hospital equipped and staffed to care for all categories of patients, including neurosurgery and post-operative treatment.

“As a Role III hospital, we are able to provide orthopedic capabilities, obstetrician and gynecology, x-rays and many more capabilities,” said Capt. Maria L. Kunkel, operating room nurse, B Company, 47th CSH. “Although this is a training environment, we treat every casualty and their injuries as we would during a real-world situation.”

Casi said 47th CSH leadership is proud to provide first-hand experience on hospital operations and capabilities to the Vietnamese People’s Army. They are also proud of the effort the Soldiers put towards this training event, even with the challenging weather.

“We like to inject (the weather) into scenarios, but we don’t plan for Mother Nature to do that for us,” Caci said. “Our leadership is reminding Soldiers that complexity is a good thing and you want it to occur during training.”