21st CSH uncase colors

By Staff Sgt. Joshua Salmons
4th Sustainment Brigade, 13th SC(E), PAO

FORT HOOD, Texas — Soldiers from the 21st Combat Support Hospital uncased their colors at a ceremony in the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Gym April 25, just three days after returning from Iraq.

The 21st CSH troops were a part of Task Force 21 Medical,  made up of medical professionals and Soldiers from 34 installations from across the Army. The ceremony was a symbolic ‘welcome back’ for Hood service members and a ‘farewell’ for the half of the task force who were anxious to return to their actual home stations.

Echoing a familiar feeling to anyone recently returned from deployment, Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald Solis, 21st CSH command sergeant major, said it “felt great to be uncasing the colors,” especially with the whole task force present. “It was a hard mission, but we completed it with dignity and respect.”

Along with Romanian Healthcare providers, Task Force 21 was responsible for detainee care at Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facilities. They provided primary care through level three and four hospitalization to detainees and Coalition forces, and were responsible for level one healthcare at Camp Ashraf. The task force also provided level two healthcare at Fort Suse before it closed in September 2006.

The task force helped transition operations from Abu Ghraib to Camp Cropper and coped with the expansion of Camp Bucca from a stating detainee population of 8,500 to a camp capable of holding 15,000.

Caring for detainees is a different burden than doing so for Coalition Soldiers, said Col. Jeffrey Clark, the 21st CSH hospital commander. “Treating known extremists and insurgents with compassion can be very hard,” he explained. Personal feelings and reservations have to be set aside to focus on the mission as a healthcare provider. “I can’t be more proud of how our Soldiers conducted themselves.”

“The comments from everyone about Task Force 21 have been uniform in their praise,” said Col. James Rice, the 1st Medical Brigade commander. “The strength of the unit lives in the hearts of these Soldiers. It has made all the difference.”

During this deployment, the task force in-processed over 15,000 detainees, performed 1,400 surgeries and 24,000 x-rays, admitted 1,700 patients, competed 150,000 sick-call visits, and issued over one million doses of medicine.

The task force also planned and implemented a detainee healthcare transition program, where Iraqi correctional officers are trained as medics at the Taji Regional Training Center. They are provided on-the-job training at Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca and integrated into detainee healthcare operations at both camps.