Airmen replace Soldiers at hospital

By Pfc. Leah R. Burton
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — Winning a war is a joint effort and on Sep. 20, the Air Force's 332nd Expenditionary Medical Group is assuming responsibility for the theater hospital from the redeploying 31st Combat Support Hospital here.

Community members in need of emergency medical services will be directed to the Air Force Theater Hospital with its anticipated expanded medical capabilities.

"This will be the first time the Air Force takes over control of an Army hospital," said Master Sgt. Don Buford, NCOIC of medical operations, U.S. Central Command Air Forces.

The 332nd EMDG has shipped more than 100 tons of equipment into theater to add to the $20 million worth of equipment the Army is contributing to the medical mission. For the past two weeks Airmen and Soldiers prepared for the transfer by taking inventory of the Army equipment.

"One thing that's unique about this transition is that the Air Force has already signed for the Army equipment, which is a rare thing, especially on this scale," said Maj. Eric Carnahan, 31st CSH executive officer.

The joint medical staff prepared by conducting left-seat, right-seat training.

"At first, the Air Force [watched] the Army do (the mission) for the first few days," Buford said. "Then the Air Force [performed] the work while the Army [watched] for a few days."

The facility, located in the same spot as the 31st CSH, at Sapper Road between Pennsylvania Avenue and Perimeter Road, is equipped with a 24-bed intensive care ward, 40-bed intermediate care ward and 20-bed minimal care ward. The array of services provided at the hospital is expected to expand.

"The hospital will have a new operating room to perform neurological, eye and maxillofacial surgical services that were traditionally done in Baghdad," said Maj. Jerome Wizda, chief of medical operations, CENTAF.

The staff for the new AFTH has about 300 people including about 15 U.S. Army personnel who are remaining behind and 19 Australian medics. The AFTH is under the tactical control of Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

In addition to manning the AFTH, the Air Force will continue to run the Aeromedical Contingency Staging Facility where patients are treated before being medically evacuated.

During their tour on LSA Anaconda, the 31st CSH medical staff conducted more than 2,000 surgeries and evacuated more than 2,400 patients since January at the Level-III hospital.

The Army Medical Department runs five Level-III hospitals within theater. A Level-III medical treatment facility provides surgery and nursing care, as opposed to just one or the other. The ability to provide postoperative care sets it apart from a Level-I or -II facility.

Deploying military doctors decreases the military beneficiaries' access to health care providers. The basic premise of the hand over is to share the burden of providing combat medical care while maintaining adequate care at home, Carnahan said.

Most of the 31st CSH Soldiers will redeploy to Fort Bliss, Texas. The Soldiers who do not redeploy will be remissioned within theater.

Editors Note: Pfc. Burton is a member of the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. She is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.


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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Airmen and Soldiers work side-by-side to establish the new Air Force Theater Hospital on LSA Anaconda.

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - U.S. Army Spc. Lydia Kim, 31st Combat Support Hospital, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Oschoa, 332nd Expenditionary Medical Group work together packaging surgical tools for the operating room.