USS MAHAN At Sea (NNS) -- To support the Navy's need to engage and interact in different regions and cultures around the world, including the Gulf of Aden during counterpiracy operations, USS Mahan (DDG 72) has developed Triage, Rite, Hand (TRH), a unique program that addresses critical medical care needs and respects the religious practices of myriad faith groups.
Mahan is currently conducting counterpiracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea to detect and deter pirate activity that threatens the safety and security of the maritime environment.
The capability TRH brings to the mission can easily be employed not only during this mission but also during a humanitarian assistance and disaster response situation, a natural disaster or a non-combatant evacuation operation.
"A humanitarian operation that we could have out here is very diverse and covers many, many different possibilities. So the most important thing is that we are saving lives and stopping more life of potentially being lost," said Lt. Harvey Macklin, Mahan's chaplain.
"In the end we are taking care of people, and if they are in distress, we hope to be a lifesaver for them."
A team of 14 volunteers make up the TRH team and are specifically trained in providing emergent medical response and spiritual care.
"Triage deals with the medical. Rite, spelled R-I-T-E --of religious rite -- and the hand is for the hand of humanitarian aid. It is a three-part process, with the first priority being to save lives," said Macklin.
The triage aspect is 75 to 80 percent of the total process, and the religious rite and humanitarian aid is the other 25 percent.
As part of the program, the team's volunteers learn basic medical procedures to augment the independent duty corpsman, who is the senior medical personnel on the guided-missile destroyer. These Sailors serve as first responders. Some TRH members learn stretcher-bearer techniques; others learn how to administer IVs, bandages, how to check vital signs, apply oxygen and open nasal and oral airways.
"It is important to have all these people on board because if I myself or the other corpsmen get injured then we have people designated and trained to facilitate treating the wounded," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Dinsley Harris, the independent duty corpsman on Mahan.
"If I go down then they are going to need all the help they can get because none of them have been through the same training I have."
Whatever the contingency, if seriously injured personnel are brought aboard Mahan, they are assessed based on the criticality of their medical condition at the time. Those who have superficial injuries - cuts and bruises - are separated from those more seriously injured. Those coming aboard who have life-threatening injuries and need trauma care within the hour are identified and transferred to another platform with a more robust medical team.
During the course of the medical treatment, the TRH team facilitates meeting the patients' religious needs, including allowing the time and place for prayer. This is part of the rite aspect of the program.
"Especially in this AOR (area of responsibility), their faith is their life, and their faith is their family. It is what we call an enmeshed family," said Macklin, originally from Holyoke, Colo.
"In these circumstances, it is very important to know the person coming aboard a ship, before administering assistance. This way, the whole person is being facilitated and true healing can occur. The object must be to look past just physically keeping them alive and instead respecting the complete individual, providing those things that are dear to their life and heart - not just the outer shell.
"In this way we meet them physically, spiritually, mentally and socially," he said.
Finally, those who have died or are terminal are moved to another part of the ship. Once individuals are placed in this category, the diverse TRH team respectfully facilitates the burial of patients, victims - or even pirates if necessary - in accordance with the practices of the deceased's faith.
The program encompasses all faith groups, but since the ship is currently deployed to the 5th Fleet Area of Operations, Macklin conducted extensive research to increase his understanding of Islamic rites and observances.
"Some people that we deal with might be Muslim, and it is important that they be able to practice what they believe," said Harris, a native of Atlanta, Ga.
For more news from Combined Task Force 151, visit www.navy.mil/local/CTF-151/.