WITH its turquoise waters, balmy temperatures and sizzling nightlife, Miami attracts millions of visitors annually. However, not all are there to enjoy the city.
Army surgeons, nurses and medics who have been coming to the Florida city since January 2002 seldom find time to enjoy Miami's neon lights or its warm Atlantic Ocean swells. Instead, these members of forward surgical teams have helped save hundreds of lives while honing their skills at the Army Trauma Training Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.
"This program exists because we want to provide great surgical care on the battlefield," said COL Tom Knuth, the director of the Army's training program. "We want our commanders to know that their soldiers will get the same level of quality care on the battlefield they can get at any urban trauma center."
As the only level-one trauma center in Miami-Dade County, the Ryder Trauma Center can treat any type of trauma victim. This allows soldiers to work shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the world's most experienced medical personnel.
"Ryder's medical personnel treat traumas every day," said Knuth. "Some of them have more than 20 years of experience. Most of the Army surgeons deal with a healthy population and never see trauma. This training raises our medical team's level of confidence and improves its abilities to deal with combat wounds."
Nearing the end of their 10-day training cycle, MAJ Edgar Chauvin and members of his 936th FST were wearing scrubs and looking tired after running the trauma center the past 24 hours. They were more than ready for some well-earned rest. Yet any rest would be temporary, since the Paducah, Ky.-based Reservists had been activated for duty in Southwest Asia.
"I'm confident that now that we've completed this training, my team can be mobilized anywhere in the world and complete its mission," said Chauvin. "We came here and recognized our weaknesses, worked on those weaknesses and eventually ran the Ryder Trauma Center."
Unlike soldiers assigned to active-duty FSTs, Reserve team members don't all work in the medical field.
For example, SGT Charles Fowler, a licensed practical nurse with the 936th FST, is an industrial piping valve salesman when not drilling with the unit.
"My civilian job has nothing to do with my military job," said Fowler. "Over time, I've lost confidence in my skills. But the training at this trauma center reintroduced me to the clinical environment and honed those skills."