Caring for Soldiers in War and Peace

By Kiley, Kevin C. | Army, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Caring for Soldiers in War and Peace


Kiley, Kevin C., Army


The Army Medical Department is at war and is spread around the world with an unprecedented operational tempo-supporting the Army in combat, preparing units for deployment and return, and maintaining the health of soldiers, retirees and their families at home. Patients, families and commanders continue to laud the professional, competent and compassionate performance of medics in each scenario. We have been brilliantly led these last four years by Lt. Gen. James B. Peake, MC, the Surgeon General and commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Command, who retired with distinction in July 2004. His vision of a better trained 91W medic, a robust U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) and a fighting medical force that is trained and ready, are the hallmarks of his leadership and exemplary service. The result of this vision is a much healthier Army and a combat-ready soldier on point, operating within sight of a ready and capable medic.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. and coalition forces continue to struggle against hostile forces opposed to freedom. Soldiers know that, from the combat medic 91W riding alongside them in convoy to the aid station to the combat support hospital and through the evacuation chain, from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to home-station hospitals in the United States, they will receive quality, timely and compassionate care from the world's best military medical force.

As the fighting goes on, there is another battle in theater-to improve living conditions for the people who must build new societies. Army medics are also in the forefront of that effort.

Medics and dentists regularly take modern medicine into the villages and towns, sometimes to people who have never seen a doctor before. Illnesses and injuries are treated, and thousands of people have been vaccinated against disease. Veterinarians play an important role, too, ensuring the health of livestock that often are the foundation of the local economy. With better health and more stable living conditions, the people of Afghanistan and Iraq will be better able to participate in their new democratic governments. The interaction between the local people and U.S. Army medics clearly builds trust and cooperation.

With help from coalition partners, MEDCOM is also rebuilding the medical infrastructure in these countries so that they can continue to improve their health care programs after we leave. Iraq has 1,200 primary heaithcare clinics and more than 240 hospitals, most in poor condition. They are being remodeled, reequipped and reopened. The Kabul Medical Institute is teaching Afghan medical students again. In Iraq, one of our civil affairs teams is publishing the Iraqi Journal of Medicine to help Iraqi physicians catch up on medical knowledge that they could not share during Saddam Hussein's reign.

More than 100,000 troops who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom have returned home. "Returning soldiers to duty" and the "expeditious, compassionate disposition of the unfit soldier" are both key core Army Medical Department (AMEDD) processes on our balanced score card strategy map.

Returning soldiers are receiving expanded health assessments because of new, unprecedented clinical practice guidelines. Telephone help-lines are available for providers, patients and families, and the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and the Deployment Health Care Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., provide information to the Army on their web sites.

These steps are just part of a total force health protection program that includes environmental surveillance to spot health threats in theater, electronic medical record keeping and improved data on the location of each military unit throughout its deployment.

Care for returning soldiers also includes repairing damage that is not physical. Soldiers and their families have access, through Army One Source, to behavioral health support and up to six free counseling sessions that are not part of the formal medical system. …

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