To simulate the possibility of encountering a large number of injured soldiers in a combat zone, Fort Hood conducted mass casualty training Thursday.
Soldiers from the 21st Combat Support Hospital, 1st Medical Brigade, assembled a full-fledged 44-bed hospital using more than 8,000 square feet of tents over the course of several days.
It took 36 hours to complete the facility, which is air conditioned with X-ray space, a blood laboratory, two intensive care units, two operating rooms and even a chaplain station. In about a week’s time, the facility could be expanded to a hold 248 beds if necessary.
“What we can do here is what we are doing in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Delsina West, a human resources officer with the 21st.
In the training exercise, helicopters flew in soldiers with simulated injuries ranging from minor to life threatening. Soldiers with mock injuries then acted the part, telling doctors about their injuries as triage workers gave initial treatment prioritized.
The U.S. Army refers to the facility as a Early Entry Hospital Element. It requires 106 soldiers to operate around the clock.
Sgt. Cedric Martin acted as a surgeon in Thursday’s training exercise. He performed an operation on a mock patient whose leg was broken, setting the bone with an external fixture.
Martin previously deployed to Afghanistan. He said the difference between training and real-life scenarios is the shock of seeing blood. Though the stress is not as high, he said training is highly useful.
“It will really prepare me to not be surprised,” he said.
The exercise also provided valuable learning experiences for soldiers who have not yet deployed.
Col. Wendy Harter, the officer-in-charge of the hospital, said learning to set up the hospital is just as valuable as practicing medical operations.
“That’s why we’re out here, the logistical training,” Harter said.