USA — Medevac Initiatives Save Lives in Afghanistan

FORT DETRICK, Md. — New ambu­lances designed to nego­ti­ate Afghanistan’s rough, nar­row roads, kits that quick­ly con­vert stan­dard com­bat vehi­cles for casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion and state-of-the-art field med­ical pack­ages are improv­ing bat­tle­field med­i­cine and sav­ing lives, an offi­cial involved in devel­op­ing and field­ing the new equip­ment report­ed.

U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity helped to develop this mine-resistant, ambush-protected, all-terrain-vehicle ambulance specifically for Afghanistan's terrain, as well as a kit that converts any M-ATV for casualty evacuation
U.S. Army Med­ical Materiel Devel­op­ment Activ­i­ty helped to devel­op this mine-resis­tant, ambush-pro­tect­ed, all-ter­rain-vehi­cle ambu­lance specif­i­cal­ly for Afghanistan’s ter­rain, as well as a kit that con­verts any M‑ATV for casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion.
U.S. Army pho­to
Click to enlarge

“What we are doing is get­ting bet­ter tech­nol­o­gy far for­ward to the wound­ed, and as a result, we are see­ing a decrease in mor­tal­i­ty,” Jaime Lee, a prod­uct man­ag­er at the U.S. Army Med­ical Materiel Devel­op­ment Activity’s Med­ical Sup­port Sys­tems Divi­sion, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Service. 

“We have improved get­ting care to the sol­dier in that far for­ward area, … and get­ting it to him in that ‘gold­en hour’ –- that first hour after he has been wound­ed,” he said.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates has pressed hard for the past two years to bring med­ical care in Afghanistan in line with what’s avail­able for U.S. troops in Iraq. This includes mede­vac capa­bil­i­ties that ensure wound­ed troops get advanced med­ical care with­in one hour of their injury -– a fac­tor that med­ical experts agree makes a major dif­fer­ence in sur­vival rates. 

The Army Med­ical Materiel Devel­op­ment Activ­i­ty has been hard at work sup­port­ing that ini­tia­tive, with sev­er­al new projects under way to sup­port joint urgent require­ments iden­ti­fied in the com­bat the­ater, Lee said. 

One, devel­oped in coop­er­a­tion with the mine-resis­tant, ambush-pro­tect­ed, all-ter­rain-vehi­cle pro­gram office, is an M‑ATV-like ambu­lance specif­i­cal­ly designed to tra­verse Afghanistan’s demand­ing ter­rain. The first 250 are sched­uled to go into pro­duc­tion this sum­mer and are expect­ed to be field­ed this fall, Lee reported. 

Unlike the MRAP ambu­lances in Afghanistan that were designed to oper­ate in Iraq, the M‑ATV-like ver­sions are being built from the ground up for con­di­tions in Afghanistan. They have improved sus­pen­sion sys­tems and offer more mobil­i­ty and speed than the MRAP models. 

Each of the new ambu­lances is designed to hold two lit­ter patients and sev­er­al ambu­la­to­ry patients, Lee said. It’s equipped with state-of-the-art field med­ical sup­plies orga­nized accord­ing to injury, includ­ing breath­ing prob­lems, bleed­ing, hypother­mia and bro­ken bones. 

Unlike in the past, when medics always had to orga­nize their own sup­plies, the com­po­nents for the new ambu­lances arrive in the the­ater ready to use. “What we have done here is take a whole bunch of sub­ject-mat­ter experts and con­fig­ure it to a stan­dard for­mat,” Lee said. “Now, when the medic gets it, he pulls it straight out of the box, hangs it up and is ready to go. He knows exact­ly where every­thing is.” 

The med­ical kit bag hangs inside the ambu­lance, but because its com­po­nents are attached using fab­ric fas­ten­ers, medics can easy pull them off when nec­es­sary to treat patients out­side the vehi­cle, Lee said. 

The M‑ATV-like ambu­lance includes anoth­er first: an oxy­gen con­cen­tra­tor that cre­ates med­ical-grade oxy­gen from ambi­ent air. The ben­e­fit is two-fold, Lee explained. Gone are the bulky oxy­gen tanks that, if hit by a frag­ment, could turn into a pro­jec­tile and kill pas­sen­gers in the vehi­cle. The oxy­gen con­cen­tra­tor also elim­i­nates the logis­tics bur­den of hav­ing to refill oxy­gen bot­tles in the com­bat theater. 

A new casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion kit that tucks neat­ly inside a mine-resis­tant, ambush-pro­tect­ed, all-ter­rain-vehi­cle enables it to con­vert into an ad-hoc casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion plat­form with­in a mat­ter of min­utes.
U.S. Army pho­to
Click to enlarge

But in cas­es where an ambu­lance isn’t on the scene to evac­u­ate a wound­ed war­rior imme­di­ate­ly, troops now are gain­ing a new “scoop and run” capa­bil­i­ty to get the casu­al­ties to advanced-lev­el care more quickly. 

The Army Med­ical Materiel Devel­op­ment Activ­i­ty helped to devel­op a new casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion, or CASEVAC, kit that con­verts any M‑ATV into an ad-hoc casu­al­ty evac­u­a­tion plat­form with­in a mat­ter of min­utes. Each portable kit con­tains two spine boards with restraint sys­tems and lit­ter straps to trans­port wound­ed war­riors to the vehi­cle. Troops can then use their per­son­al first-aid kits to begin ini­tial care while trans­port­ing the casu­al­ty trans­port­ed to an evac­u­a­tion point. 

The goal, Lee said, is for every M‑ATV in Afghanistan to be equipped with the new kits. About 300 were deliv­ered last year, with anoth­er 1,800 expect­ed to be deliv­ered this sum­mer. “This will have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the force and will real­ly help to evac­u­ate casu­al­ties,” Lee said. 

In recog­ni­tion of their work in devel­op­ing these much-need­ed capa­bil­i­ties, Lee and the rest of the Army Med­ical Materiel Devel­op­ment Activity’s Med­ical Sup­port Sys­tems team received the 2010 Nation­al Secu­ri­ty and Inter­na­tion­al Affairs Medal. The award rec­og­nizes fed­er­al employ­ees for sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the nation in activ­i­ties relat­ed to nation­al secu­ri­ty and inter­na­tion­al affairs. 

“In my opin­ion, the work that [the Med­ical Sys­tems Sup­port Divi­sion] does has been absolute­ly crit­i­cal to our military’s mis­sion in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Army Col. Rus­sell E. Cole­man, com­man­der of USAMMDA, who nom­i­nat­ed them for the award. “The CASEVAC and med­ical evac­u­a­tion capa­bil­i­ties that they have field­ed have saved the lives of many of our deployed ser­vice­mem­bers, and it is an accom­plish­ment wor­thy of recognition.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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