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Coalition Forces work together on wounded soldiers

by Staff Sgt. Marti Ribeiro
401st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

MEDITERRANEAN REGION - Wounded British forces may speak the same language as some of their new medical personnel, but they definitely have a different accent.

U.S. Air Force medical personnel have joined British forces to work on the receiving end of medical evacuation victims while deployed to a Royal Air Force base in the eastern Mediterranean. While the United Kingdom cares for the victims as they're in the air, once they are on the ground a joint team of physicians, nurses and surgeons from both the U.K. and the U.S. work together to help the wounded and sick. There are almost 30 American medics working in cooperation with the British teams, commanded by Lt. Col. Brian McCrary.

"The transformation of the Air Force Medical Service in recent years has been astonishing," said Col. Al Newton, 6th Medical Group commander. "Our Air Force medics, along with joint and coalition medical forces are trained and equipped to provide superb, high tech, life saving care under austere, deployed conditions. I'm extremely proud of them and their seamless integration into coalition medical forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom."

The eastern Mediterranean hospital, where the medevac team lands, is the primary evacuation site for forward deployed British forces, but has been used for civilian and U.S. casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom. "Since the beginning of the war, we've had more than 200 patients evacuated into here," said RAF Group Capt. David McConnell, hospital commander.

According to McConnell, most of the injuries were not battle related.

"We've had soldiers come in with severe back problems or diseases - these are considered non-battle injuries," said British Army Col. Nuri Ismail, lead consultant surgeon. "But we have also had our fair share of battle-related injuries."

Patients with shrapnel wounds, land mine wounds and high-velocity gun shot injuries have frequented the hospital in the last few weeks.

These patients, whether seen by a physician or surgeon are in the good hands of a team from both the U.S. and U.K. "Patients wounded in battle are sent to us with open wounds," said Lt. Col. Teresa Goodpaster, a general surgeon deployed from MacDill's 6th Medical Group. "We clean them and either close them up or get them ready to send some place else."

But, whatever the case, the medical team works side-by-side for the best interest of the patient. While the integration of the Americans into the British medical center has been pretty smooth, there were some differences to become accustomed to.

"It took a little getting used to a different system with slightly different medications, but the personnel have learned to adapt and have worked really well together," Goodpaster said.

"Having the Americans here has been great," said British Army Col. Keith Galbraith, consultant surgeon. "We've learned a lot from them but at the same time, they have proven to be an essential part of the mission." This isn't the first time American servicemembers have visited this hospital. During the embassy bombing in Beirut almost 20 years ago, injured Marines were transferred to this British hospital for stabilization before being shipped to an American hospital in Germany.

"We actually had 21 of the worst cases from that bombing come through here," Galbraith said. Fortunately there have been few casualties during this operation and once the likelihood of battle casualties decreases even more, the presence of American forces will disperse and the hospital and ground medevac teams will revert back to all British personnel. But, for right now, the U.K. and U.S. are working well and enjoying every day they have together - no matter what language you spe

 

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