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PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force Maj. Virginia Dunn, a native of Indianapolis, the Intensive Care Unit officer in charge, sets up a patient’s intravenous line recently in the 934th Forward Surgical Team advanced trauma life support section at Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan recently. The 934th FST is a team of Army and Air Force medical providers who treat coalition force and Afghan casualties from the battlefield and prepare them for a higher level of care. The goal of the unit is to cut down the mortality rate of battlefield injuries by ensuring all patients see a medical provider within one hour of their time of injury. Dunn is deployed from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester, Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Assimilation is never easy.

 

Conforming to the team dynamic of a completely different branch of service, however, is even more difficult.

 

The roughly two dozen soldiers of the 934th Forward Surgical Team, a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Salt Lake City, were quite familiar with each other long before arriving at Forward Operating Base Sharana earlier this year.

They had trained, lived and worked together for several months, even performing a two-week rotation in a trauma center in Miami to learn trauma-specific protocols and enhance their already vast knowledge.

The FST personnel, which in previous rotations had been split into two units at two different FOBs, was combined into one large unit to address the growing medical needs on the base.

But sometimes, one team, no matter how well they work together, is not enough.

As part of a trial period, the FST was soon augmented by several Air Force medical personnel, including nurses and medical technicians as well as several Army critical care nurses, who assist in transporting patients to a higher level of care.

The Air Force medical personnel and Army CCNs are among the first in the country to be integrated with an FST, to the great relief of FST members.

It was the first time additional personnel had been added to an FST.

“Our mission here is unique, to say the least, and upon arrival, we knew we’d be busy with the amount of personnel we had,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Austin Adamson, the 934th FST executive officer from Preston, Idaho. "Thankfully, we have been able to bring in some more people to work with us and help us provide even greater patient care.”

The welcoming nature of their FST teammates was felt immediately by the newcomers.

“I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect coming in, not having a lot of dealings with the Army or trying to integrate with them before,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Elizabeth Norris, a native of New Madrid, Mo., the officer in charge of the advanced trauma life support section of the FST. “But these guys were great, they welcomed us with open arms, and we haven’t had any issues at all with not feeling like a team.”

“Sometimes, it’s easy to forget we aren’t originally from this unit,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Joanne Castillo, a native of Sunnyvale, Calif., who serves as a medical technician in the Advanced Trauma Life Support section of the FST. “This unit is a good group of people who welcomed us right in, and everyone gets along great, no matter where we come from.”

“This has been such a great opportunity,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kristina Rosiles, a native of Garland, Texas, who is also a medical technician in the Advanced Trauma Life Support section of the FST. “At my home base, I work in a family practice clinic where I do a lot of checking in of patients, vital signs and administrative work. Here, however, it’s significantly different. It’s a huge mountain of a job here, and not just because the base is located at over 7,000 feet in elevation.”

Rosiles, deployed from Sheppard AFB, Texas, is not alone in believing this deployment is considerably different than her duties at home station.

“I’ve worked in emergency medicine before, but this is on a whole new level,” said Castillo, who is deployed from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.“Of course, we get a report about the incoming patient, but you just never know what you’re going to encounter once they arrive. There are a lot of dealings with the unknown here.”

Like any good team, individuals in the unit learn from their teammates.

“Everyone knows how to do the same thing in different ways,” said Rosiles.“It could be one simple technique, but five different people may do it five different ways to get the same result. We are constantly learning from each other. You have to take it all in, and compare it to what you already know and decide for yourself how to do things. It’s a great environment for learning.”

The Air Force personnel definitely appreciate the uniqueness of their deployment.

“Some of the stuff I get to do here, I’d never get the chance to do on a typical Air Force deployment, working in a military hospital somewhere,” said Rosiles. “At an Air Force hospital, I couldn’t even dream of working in an FST like I am here. I am getting some unique experiences here that I will get to use throughout my Air Force career.”

“This deployment combines a lot of the aspects I liked from my last two deployments,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Virginia Dunn, of Indianapolis, the Intensive Care Unit officer in charge deployed from Peterson AFB, Colo. “I spent a deployment in the ICU at Bagram Air Base’s hospital and another deployment assisting with medical evacuations out of Kuwait, but working in a trauma center like this is a great mix of my past two deployment experiences.”

“Historically, Air Force medical teams haven’t been on FSTs,” said Norris, who is deployed from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., where she is a pediatric nurse. “That’s usually been an Army tasking. So to get patients directly from the point of injury, as an Air Force person, it’s pretty rare and that’s what we get to do here. Usually, when a medical person from the Air Force sees a patient, they’re a little bit cleaned up, they’ve had a little surgery, and they’re stabilized, so it’s obviously a great experience for all of us to see how they got to be that way.”

A great experience, a great team environment, sounds like assimilation may not be as difficult as it’s made out to be.

PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force Maj. Michele Holderness, from Alexandria, Va., an intensive care nurse with the 934th Forward Surgical Team, prepares to record a patient’s progress in the advanced trauma life support section of the FST at Forward Operating Base Sharana recently. In order to help provide better treatment for their patients, several FSTs in Afghanistan have been augmented by Air Force medical professionals, as well as Army critical care nurses. The 934th FST is a team of Army and Air Force medical providers who treat coalition force and Afghan casualties from the battlefield and prepare them for a higher level of care. The goal of the unit is to cut down the mortality rate of battlefield injuries by ensuring all patients see a medical provider within one hour of their time of injury. Holderness is deployed from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where she is a critical care nurse. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester, Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)

Last Updated on Friday, 29 October 2010 21:22
 

    

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