First responders to combat casualties are typically other soldiers trained as medics (or sometimes other soldiers in a unit, with EMT training or not). Surgical teams are equipped with both general surgery and anesthesia packs, and in situations that require a quick medical response, some types of these packs also include rapid-response surgical kits with essential first aid items plus basic surgical tools.
The next level of care, known as level II care, was once a MASH unit, the Army's now outdated mobile surgical hospital. But since Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Army's forward surgical teams (FST) and forward resuscitative surgical system (FRSS) care for injured soldiers. Forward surgical teams treat patients in the critical moments before they're transported to a hospital. The FRSS is a lightweight mobile operating room. These mobile units are designed to be easy to move and easy to deploy. The surgical teams consist of a staff of 20, usually broken into four specialties: triage and trauma management, surgery, post-op recovery and administration and operations.
The units are equipped with portable oxygen-generating systems and within, surgical teams are equipped to administer general anesthesia, perform surgery (each FRSS is equipped with two operating tables), treat major injuries, including the following:
- Chest and abdominal trauma
- Respiratory distress
- Crush injuries
- Closed head wounds
These surgical teams are also able to provide postoperative care for up to eight patients for a maximum of six hours. Overall, the mobile operating room is self-sustaining for 72 hours or 30 patients.
Wounded soldiers may then be transported by helicopter, such as a CH47 with a critical care team (known as a critical care air transport or CCAT) on board, to a combat support hospital (CSH).
A combat support hospital is an expandable mobile military hospital, with care and equipment that rivals a fixed-location hospital. The 10th Combat Support Hospital, for example, houses the following:
- 84 beds (with another 164 available)
- A fully equipped operating room
- Intensive and intermediate care units
- A lab
- A blood bank
- A radiology section (complete with portable, digital x-ray equipment)
- A pharmacy
To learn more about Army surgeons' equipment, check out the links on the next page.