BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Whether from a distant sea or in a locale far removed from the shore, the changing dynamics of an uncertain world has Navy Medicine in a familiar position of preparing for any contingency, including organizing mobile hospital capabilities should such a need be called upon.
Naval Hospital Bremerton (NHB) from Naval Medicine West, along with Naval Hospital Beaufort representing Navy Medicine East, doctors, nurses, hospital corpsmen and a wide range of support staff have been conducting practical hands-on training as part of an Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF) platform to meet Navy and Marine Corps current and future requirements, whether from the littorals or centered at an austere location.
"NHB and Naval Hospital Beaufort are current 'Tier One' assets, meaning we are to be ready to deploy if called upon," said Cmdr. Christopher Tepera, EMF executive officer.
According to Tepera, the EMF is first and foremost a hospital. They are not light, small footprint medical support facilities. Because an EMF is a hospital - albeit temporary - it has resuscitative medical and surgical care, and selected specialty care. A transportable, medically and surgically intensive EMF provides medical support capability and capacity to any force commander that would not otherwise be available in smaller, more mobile medical support facilities.
Tepera explained that there are several stages of training for the designated personnel assigned to man the EMF.
"First was computer based training related to orientation to the platform, chemical, biological [and] radiological (CBR) protection training, and the usual operational readiness stuff. Second, we sent a group to Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute, Camp Pendleton, California to build the facility. While there, we learned how to build the facility and how to work as a team," Tepera said.
The recently completed second training evolution had subject matter experts testing the combined EMF team's ability to perform mission requirements.
"Our Operational Readiness Evaluation went really well," stated Capt. Kim Zuzelski, EMF commanding officer and NHB executive officer.
The training also honed the "one team, one fight" concept of those involved. The long hours and hard work were readily accomplished by a selfless group centered on teamwork.
Tepera acknowledged that EMF leadership noticed that one of the identifiable benefits during both training weeks was the teamwork involved in getting tasks accomplished.
"The training is important to learn how to use the facility, but learning to work as a unit is probably the most important thing. Our staff were awesome," stated Tepera.
NHB Sailors assigned to EMF echoed Tepera's sentiments.
"There was an amazing amount of dedication and teamwork provided during the training evolution. I felt immensely privileged to be part. As a medical laboratory technician by trade, I had both my tech and Fleet Marine Force skills with me. As a lab tech, working in the field is quite challenging due to limited resources, but we are trained in that type of environment and this time helped to reinforce that," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Rolando D. Aranzanso, NHB laboratory department assistant leading petty officer.
"It felt truly wonderful to be a part of such a team. Everyone there was great and had something to bring to the table. Everyone's attitude was truly amazing. I do not think one person complained or was not willing to volunteer to help with anything. At the EMF setting if you asked for four volunteers you had 10 ready to do anything without hesitation," shared Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Claire Anderson, noting it was gratifying to see the EMF built after putting in long days to make it happen.
"Watching metal rods and tarps turn into a fully functional, ready-to-go hospital, with air conditioning and gear, was amazing. In the beginning all you saw was dirt and the bags of gear. In the end, there was our EMF," Anderson added.
The EMF concept is not entirely new to NHB, which has an established historical precedence in staffing, readying, and deploying in such a status.
The current 150-bed EMF - there are several models - is actually an updated iteration of the mobile fleet hospital, notably utilized by NHB in 2003 to support Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). At that time, it was the initial, largest, and longest deployed fleet hospital in Navy Medicine, and provided direct medical care to approximately 1,400 patients that included more than 250 surgeries.
Reverting back to the EMF concept is a shift from the height of OEF and OIF where NHB staff were routinely deployed on an individual augmentee basis where needed, such as the NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan.
The primary mission of the EMF is to provide standardized, modular, flexible medical/dental support in an advance base environment to combat operations. If and when called upon, NHB's EMF can support the theater commander, joint task force commanders, Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Forces, Naval Amphibious Task Force units, and forward elements of Navy, Army, and Air Force units deployed ashore.
The secondary mission is to provide health service support for use by United States government agencies involved in disaster and/or humanitarian relief, or limited humanitarian care during peacetime operations.
An EMF can accomplish such objectives as provide resuscitative medical care to maximize the return-to-duty of personnel, thus minimizing manpower replacement requirements; deliver a rapidly deployable Navy Medicine asset at any global location to support deployed forces and combat operations; furnish needed hospital beds to augment outside continental United States (OCONUS) medical facilities; and reduce aeromedical evacuation (AE) and subsequent troop replacement requirements.
Each EMF is designed and outfitted to be assembled by the assigned staff and to be fully operational in 10 days. This is in conjunction with site preparation and the transport of components and personnel. An EMF is essentially a self-sustaining medical facility, except for logistical and other base support needs from the theater commanding officer or task force commander.
The EMF offers a range of surgical specialties and general dentistry, along with medical specialties and clinical support services to provide a host of similar functions as a large hospital.
"There is not a better group of Sailors and medical professionals that I would rather deploy with into harm's way than the ones attached to EMF Bremerton. I trust my life in their hands," commented Cmdr. Robert McMahon, EMF director for administration.
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For more news from Naval Hospital Bremerton, visit www.navy.mil/local/nhb/.