Army Reserve Provides Key Medical Care to American and Coalition Troops

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BAGHDAD, Iraq - America's men and women in uniform injured during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are surviving those injuries at a rate of more than 90 percent - the highest survivabiliiy rate in the history of warfare - and Army Reserve Soldiers are playing a critical role in the care of those troops.

MG Ronald Silverman serves as commander of the Army Reserve's 3rd Medical Command (MEDCOM) from Fort Gillem, Ga., the command and control element for TF3 (Task Force 3) MEDCOM, with approximately 30 medical units including seven from the Army Reserve - and nearly 3,000 service members.

TF3 MEDCOM is comprised of Army Reserve, National Guard, and active duty Soldiers as well as the 332nd Expeditionary Air Wing's Air Force Theater Hospital and provides a full spectrum of health care throughout Iraq with its combat support hospitals and multifunctional medical battalions which include such skills as dental, veterinarian, preventative medicine, combat stress and pathology. The combat support hospitals have been featured on HBO's "Baghdad ER," CNN's "Combat Hospital," 60 Minutes' "A Fighting Chance" and National Gcographic's "The Heroes, The Healing."

Reserve elements such as the 329th Medical Company (Ground Ambulance), the 1437th Medical Detachment (Entomology) and the 790th Medical Detachment (Preventative Medicine) augment the combat support hospitals and help the medical community provide coalition troops with the best medical care ever in a battlefield environment.

"Army Reserve Soldiers bring an area of expertise to the battlefield that is sometimes outside the realm of the active component," Silverman said. "Our physicians, our nurses and especially our medical technicians don't necessarily focus their entire civilian career on the MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) that they have. Therefore when they come, they bring with them expertise, experience and training that might be vastly different than that of their active duty counterparts."

Third MEDCOM is the Army's only deployable theater-level medical command and is made up of Soldiers from 37 different states. Silverman is the highest ranking medical officer in Iraq and his deployment with TF3 MEDCOM marks the first time a dental officer has had command and control over the entire spectrum of medical services in a combat zone.

"I'm coming in as commander of Task Force 3 and senior commander of medical troops within the theater," Silverman said. "As such, I cover all areas. My specialty being dentistry is just one specialty. It would make no difference if I was a pediatrician; it would make no difference if I was a neurologist."

"What is important is your ability to command and control the troops that are under you," Silverman said. "No one person can have the medical knowledge of all aspects of medical care that is given in theater. What is important is being able to organize and command and control."

One of the biggest challenges facing TF3 MEDCOM has been integrating into the culture and lifestyle of the Iraqi people. "Providing health care to the Americans and the coalition is really the easy part of our job," Silverman said. "We have worked well as a team with the Air Force and all the other components. The difficult thing has been dealing with the Iraqi system in building their health care system in both the civilian sector and in the military to the point where they'll be able to completely take care of their own people."

He also said one of the key things the Reserve Soldiers bring to the fight is a maturity level due to their higher age. "One of the first contrasts that I noticed was the difference in the age disparity between the Reserve Soldier and active duty Soldiers," Silverman said. "The average age of a nurse in an active-duty hospital is 24, while the average age of a Reserve nurse is 43. It's not only their experience, it's the personal maturity level that makes a difference in how they handle the stress. …