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