U.S. Army tests new medical air beam shelter

FORT BENNING, Ga. — The 14th Com­bat Sup­port Hos­pi­tal and U.S. Army Med­ical Depart­ment, or AMEDD, board are wrap­ping up an assess­ment of a new air beam shel­ter that could lead to faster care of wound­ed troops on the bat­tle­field.

Sol­diers of the 14th Com­bat Sup­port Hos­pi­tal test a new air beam shel­ter, known offi­cial­ly as the Force Provider Expe­di­tionary-Med­ical Sys­tems, this week at Fort Ben­ning, Ga.
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Known offi­cial­ly as the Force Provider Expe­di­tionary-Med­ical Sys­tems, or FPE-MS, the front-line facil­i­ty is designed for ease of use, rapid deploy­ment and oth­er capa­bil­i­ties that meet or exceed all U.S. mil­i­tary require­ments for a gen­er­al-pur­pose field tent, AMEDD offi­cials said. Sol­diers from B Com­pa­ny began set­ting up the 84-bed hos­pi­tal April 16, at Dekkar Field. The eval­u­a­tion itself began Fri­day and ends today.

Dan­ny Ellis, an equip­ment spe­cial­ist and project lead of the Fort Sam Hous­ton, Texas-based AMEDD materiel test cell, said the FPE-MS is a tai­lored shel­ter for the Army med­ical com­mu­ni­ty with a full range of resources and ser­vices. The team came to Fort Ben­ning to assess its func­tion­al­i­ty in an envi­ron­ment as oper­a­tional­ly real­is­tic as pos­si­ble.

“We know it’s effec­tive for the mis­sion, but you have to find out if it’s suit­able for use in the field,” he said. “You don’t know till the Sol­diers and typ­i­cal users try it out. The air beam shel­ters are every­thing but bul­let­proof right now, and we’re work­ing to change that.”

In com­bat, the Army has been using the Deploy­ment Med­ical Sys­tems tent, or DEPMEDS, since the ear­ly 1980s. It’s bulky and has met­al pieces.

The new one is noth­ing but air and goes up quick­er with less man­pow­er, said Maj. Jef­fery Hogue, the 14th Com­bat Sup­port Hospital’s exec­u­tive offi­cer. On Fri­day, per­son­nel prac­ticed mov­ing 70 “casu­al­ties,” two at a time, through an air-lock entry­way sys­tem, built for chem­i­cal pro­tec­tion.

“When you occu­py a site, you’ve got to be able to pro­vide med­ical ser­vices imme­di­ate­ly,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve used the FPE-MS. It’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the AMEDD test board to see how it works in a chem­i­cal envi­ron­ment. You need to be able to seal a hos­pi­tal so the chem­i­cal agent stays out­side and the inside remains as ster­ile as pos­si­ble. That’s our intent.”

The FPE-MS includes an oper­at­ing room, phar­ma­cy, lab, X‑ray capa­bil­i­ty, nutri­tion cen­ter and facil­i­ties for a dieti­cian and oth­er spe­cial­ists. On Mon­day and Tues­day, test offi­cials planned to involve doc­tors and nurs­es while exer­cis­ing patient move­ment through oth­er parts of the hos­pi­tal.

“It’s been pret­ty real­is­tic,” Hogue said. “The train­ing itself is ben­e­fi­cial since the AMEDD team gets to see a unit work in a chem­i­cal-pro­tect­ed hos­pi­tal. The new tent is eas­i­er and goes up faster. Less peo­ple are required to put it up. What results is you have quick­er med­i­cine on the bat­tle­field.”

The test report will be based on Sol­dier com­ments, so it’s cru­cial to make the assess­ment as “high intense” as pos­si­ble, Ellis said. How­ev­er, no deci­sions have been made on acqui­si­tion or whether the FPE-MS will be field­ed.

About the Force Provider Expe­di­tionary-Med­ical Sys­tems: The FPE-MS are air beam shel­ters being con­sid­ered by the U.S. Army Med­ical Research and Materiel Com­mand as the long-term Army Med­ical Depart­ment soft-shel­ter solu­tion. The 32-foot FPE shel­ter incor­po­rates four air beams as pri­ma­ry sup­port.

It has a 10-foot inte­ri­or height, 20-foot inte­ri­or width and a 30-foot inside length. The shel­ter has 600 square feet of clear-span floor area. The FPE-MS weighs 535 pounds and has a pack vol­ume of 90 cubic feet. The air beam work­ing pres­sure is 40 pounds per square inch.

The shel­ter is designed to with­stand wind gusts up to 65 mph and a snow load of 10 pounds per square foot.

U.S. Army