NEWS | Dec. 13, 2009

Mobile Surgical Team practices abilities during training exercise

By Staff Sgt. Chad Thompson Joint Task Force-Bravo Public Affairs

Joint Task Force-Bravo's Mobile Surgical Team practiced it's deployment abilities in a training exercise Dec. 10 near the base hospital by performing five minor surgeries removing small "lumps and bumps" on volunteers.

"The team is the only permanently assigned military surgical team in Central America," said Army Dr. (Col.) David Cancelada, mobile surgical team commander. "Our mission is to provide far-forward surgical support for both military contingencies and disaster responses in which large-scale trauma occurs."

The core of the team is the operating room, which consists of a surgeon, a nurse anesthetist, two operating room nurses and two operating room technicians.

"Our capabilities are to provide five major life- or limb-saving operations consecutively without need for resupply," Dr. Cancelada said. "Additionally, the team can provide advanced trauma life support to 15 patients as well as providing limited post-operative recovery for surgical patients prior to evacuation."

Additional elements to the team include an emergency medical team, or EMT, a preventive medicine element and an operations and security element. The EMT element consists of one flight surgeon and several nurses and medics.

The team itself is 100 percent mobile with a two-hour activation response time, and it can function alone for up to 72 hours, Dr. Cancelada said.

"One of the major reasons for this exercise was to practice our abilities," Dr. Cancelada said.

The team practiced setting up the Deployable Rapid-Assembly Shelter, or DRASH, tents and ensured they had all necessary items for the procedures they can perform.

The surgeries and patient care occur in the environmentally controlled DRASH tent, which is powered by a 40-kilowatt generator. The DRASH system takes about one hour to setup, Dr. Cancelada said.

"For the majority of the time, the surgical team maintains its skill sets by operating weekly in local Honduran hospitals along with Honduran surgeons under the auspices of the Ministry of Health," he said. "But for the purposes of this exercise we are able to practice some pre- and post-operation procedures as well as providing several minor surgeries for our service members who volunteered, which gives us a little more realism for the exercise."