Magazine article National Defense

Computer System Eases Casualty Evacuations

Magazine article National Defense

Computer System Eases Casualty Evacuations

Article excerpt

Technology lets TRANSCOM track every military patient around the globe

A computer system deployed nearly two years ago to monitor the movement of casualties out of a combat zone will be upgraded to make it compatible with the Defense Department's global transportation network.

The casualty-evacuation management software was developed in response to widespread complaints following the 1991 Persian Gulf War that it was difficult to track and locate wounded service members being treated at military care centers and hospitals.

That frustrating lack of reliable information should not be experienced again, said U.S. Transportation Command officials. In July 2001, the command unveiled the TRAC2ES, or Transportation Command regulating, command and control evacuation system, a Web tool that tracks and manages casualty evacuations and patient movements. It was used in combat for the first time in Operation Enduring Freedom.

U.S. military units employed TRAC2ES to evacuate more than 1,600 U.S. and allied casualties from the war in Afghanistan, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Bruce Green, the Transportation Command's surgeon, responsible for the operation of TRAC2ES.

Green praised the system as a vast improvement over the antiquated technology it replaced, which was incapable of handling large numbers of casualties. In 1997, the command awarded a $135 million contract to Booz Allen & Hamilton for the development of TRAC2ES.

Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can access the unclassified version of TRAC2ES, he said. The system also has classified features that require secret clearances.

The TRAC2ES software makes it easier to record information about casualties, officials said. Having accurate data about patients, Green said, is critical for the Transportation Command to keep track of their status.

In a typical scenario, commanders on the ground determine that casualties need to be evacuated and transported to a medical facility. They phone the so-called "patient movement requirement center," a facility set up to support a specific conflict. An air-evacuation team then is alerted about a possible mass-casualty event. The center in turn has to separately request aircraft and crews to transport those patients.

With the old technology, the process to coordinate an air evacuation used to take at least several hours, for a single patient. With TRAC2ES, said Green, it's possible to arrange the evacuation of several patients within 45 minutes.

The Transportation Command operates four patient movement requirement centers: one is located at the command's headquarters, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. The others are based at Ramstein Air Base, in Germany, and at Yokota Air Base, in Japan. A mobile center currently operates in the Persian Gulf area.

Having these centers near the combat zone helps direct air-evacuation operations, said Green. In Operation Enduring Freedom, he said, "we coordinated with the airlift community so we could use the planes that were relatively empty when they came back."

The patient-movement requirements center receives requests for patient transport, establishes the appropriate destination and mode of travel.

In addition to the four centers, the Transportation Command has "kits" that can be used to turn planes into air medical facilities capable of treating patients while in transit.

Despite the successful employment of TRAC2ES in Operation Enduring Freedom and during domestic emergencies, the system has yet to prove its worth in a mass-casualty conflict. …

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