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Around The Fleet

Role 2 Light Maneuver Team

R2LM: World-class Medical Care Wherever it's Needed

The Navy's first role 2 light maneuver (R2LM) team completed its inaugural, 69-day deployment aboard the French navy's Mistral-class amphibious assault ship LHD Tonnerre (L9014), offering advanced trauma and life support capabilities while underway in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. This area includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean - about 2.5 million square miles of water and 20 countries.

The seven-person R2LM team comprises surgeons, physician assistants, nurses and corpsmen, and was assembled from Navy medical centers nationwide. Members graduated from the Surface Warfare Medical Institute (SWMI) East, a detachment of Navy Medicine Operational Training Center (NMOTC) in August 2017.

Unlike previous rapid response medical teams, R2LM can operate both ashore and on ships, even ships that wouldn't typically offer surgical capabilities, according to its officer in charge, Cmdr. Michael Johnston. It is, he said, an important step in the evolution of wartime medicine.

"R2LM can remain on the ship or surge a part or even the whole team ashore with the landing force, which previous units were not capable of doing," said Johnston, a general surgeon. "This is important because there is a need to get damage control surgery as close to the front line as possible to save lives.

"The surgeon general of the U.S. Navy desires to have something purely Navy-based that can serve in many different domains, and we were able to provide this support while aboard Tonnerre," he continued. "Capabilities like this are the future of warfare, and from a national, strategic level, we contributed to strengthening an alliance with the French that's been in existence for more than 240 years."

The deployment was in support of Naval Amphibious Force, Task Force 51/5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (TF 51/5). R2LM joined TF 51/5 Sailors and Marines overseas, along with a multinational landing force consisting of French infantry and French armored cavalry, not to mention the Tonnerre.

"Being on the Tonnerre enhanced our capabilities because of the extra French medical personnel and equipment," said Johnston. "On the Tonnerre, we had two operating rooms, a huge triage area that could be used as an intensive care unit and the ability to store an increased amount of blood products. In fact, with further personnel augmentation, the Tonnerre is designed to provide advanced surgical support in theater."

While the R2LM team didn't need to employ advanced trauma life support while aboard Tonnerre, medical professionals did test their casualty and medical evacuation capabilities, identified vulnerabilities in medical support functions and assisted with daily medical appointments.

"There was a learning curve involved while integrating with the French and learning how to use their equipment," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Kevin Munro. "Typically, if we were to deploy aboard a U.S. ship, we would integrate with the current medical team. However, aboard Tonnerre, we were solely responsible for daily medical support of embarked U.S. Sailors and Marines."

Those embarked service members were deployed as members of TF 51/5 to strengthen partnerships with both naval and special operations forces, build relationships with joint and regional coalition partners and enhance crisis response. According to the Marine Corps, the integrated Navy and Marine Corps task force is the first of its kind since World War II.

The task force provides command and control of integrated Navy-Marine Corps amphibious forces, serving as Marine Forces, Central Command and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's standing headquarters for crisis response. It is entrusted with synchronizing forces across the region for unity of effort, providing the commander of U.S. Central Command with flexible and deliberate response options at sea, from the sea and ashore.

Ships assigned to TF 51/5 include USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7), USS New York (LPD-21) and USS Oak Hill (LSD-51).

Editor's note: Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Chelsea Troy Milburn contributed to this report.