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JBLM FSTs conduct ‘live surgeries’

Staff Sgt. David Chapman Capt. Herman Henkes, nurse anesthetist, 250th FST, tracks and records a patients vitals signs during a live surgical procedure as part of a training exercise on JBLM, Sept 21.

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Medical professionals call it the "golden hour," that valuable time after a serious injury when how fast the treatment is received could be the decider between life and death. Because of a small team of surgeons, this vital and short time frame can be maximized to shift the balance to save a life.

During a weeklong training exercise on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the 105th Forward Surgical Team and the 250th Forward Surgical Team, an airborne FST, operated out of a series of small tents and came together as a team to perfect their skills. The culminating events, "live surgeries," were conducted in tents at the training site Sept. 21.

"We performed surgery on patients out here in the field," said Maj. Kelly Blair, a 250th FST surgeon. "These folks have volunteered to have their hernias and minor surgeries done out here to allow our Soldiers to train before we deploy for humanitarian missions, disaster relief missions or deploy to theater operations in Afghanistan or any other place worldwide."

With the help of Madigan Healthcare System, who made sure the proper waivers were signed, the surgical teams were able to conduct six live surgeries instead of training mannequins used during exercises.

"We have support from the 56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion, on the commo side, so we actually have secure satellite hook up into the network at the hospital," Maj. Joshua Paul, commander of 250th FST, said. "We are actually doing live clinical data feeds to the database as we are taking care of patients. We have had hospital support, which picked the patients, as well as logistic support from Madigan."

Satellite communications systems are just the tip of the iceberg for what the future holds for FSTs. Developing new techniques and faster processes for injured Soldiers will lead directly to saving lives.

"The roles of the FSTs are to provide far forward surgery and increase the already exceedingly high survival rate in combat," Paul said. "The American Army does a superb job of saving lives and the FSTs are getting better and better at making that rate as close to a hundred percent as humanly possible. So the investment in time, investment in personnel and some fairly hi-tech equipment we have is all closing that gap and making us provide Soldiers in the Army with the best possible medical care."

Making the two surgical teams one could have been a challenge, but the two units pulled together to complete the mission.

"These two teams made it seem like they have been working together a few years," Blair said. "They are new to one another and have only worked together a few months. But the way they get along and how efficiently they take care of patients, its like they have been together their whole lives."

The two surgical teams will continue to train and practice over the coming months as they prepare for their role in the Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives Response Force.

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