Expeditionary Med. Support brings cutting-edge technology to Southwest Asia

From the outside, the Expeditionary Medical Support tents look like something out of the movie MASH. With the exception of the 20-by-20 foot red-cross banner tied to one wall, the tents blend into the camel-colored sand and dust of Southwest Asia. But inside, the EMEDS team represents cutting-edge technology and skill executed by a staff of professionals.

Mobilized to the Middle East, a team of trauma surgeons, nurses, medical technicians and other professionals stand by, prepared to respond to a variety of catastrophic medical crises. They are prepared to treat anything from cardiac arrest and bomb blast wounds to severe burns and multiple bone fractures.

“Our technology rivals that of any emergency room back home,” explained Senior Airman Kristin Taylor, a medical technician deployed from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. “We have the capacity to anything that may walk through our door, ranging from a broken finger to a sucking chest wound. We can also perform tracheotomies and insert chest tubes. We have a trauma surgeon and fully- functional operating room for the most critical patients requiring immediate surgery. It’s really amazing what we can do.”

EMEDS team practices stabilizing a patient cervical spine
The EMEDS team practices stabilizing a patient’s cervical spine while doing a secondary evaluation to look for any type of trauma or injury.

The EMEDS is divided into four different areas: command and control, logistics, ancillary services and clinical treatment. Designed for deployment to a bare-bones base, the EMEDS Airmen and assets offer a full-spectrum of medical capabilities.

Tech. Sgt. Yvonne Espinosa, a lab technician from Eglin AFB, performs critical tests like arterial blood gas levels and crossmatches blood units for trauma patients. Using high tech equipment, she easily identifies blood type, hematocrit and white blood cell counts, and electrolyte levels .

“It’s the same equipment used in a level 1 trauma center,” said Sergeant Espinosa. “It’s reassuring that we offer this same technology in the field.”

The digital radiology X-ray department is the next door down. The mobile X-ray machine can be moved to the operating room or emergency room if needed. EMEDS staff read the X-rays. If needed, the electronic versions can be sent to a forward-deployed radiologist for more detailed interpretation.

Tech. Sgt. Yvonne Espinosa and Staff Sgt. Francisco Figueroa, EMEDS team lab technicians, read a blood smear
Tech. Sgt. Yvonne Espinosa and Staff Sgt. Francisco Figueroa, both laboratory technicians with the EMEDS team, read a blood smear to evaluate red blood cell morphology and white blood cell count.

Across the hall from the X-ray room is the OR. “Big Bertha,” a sterilizer for surgical instruments, ensures the EMEDS facility maintains the same standards of infection control in the EMEDS OR as that of hospitals back in the United States.

The EMEDS also has an ICU for critical care patients, complete with ventilators and other advanced lifesaving technology.

Other departments include the bioenvironmental engineering office, labeled “Killer BEES” and medical logistics nicknamed “Log Dawgs.” The EMEDS also has a pharmacist, dentist and certified nurse anesthetists on staff.

The EMEDS concept has been around for eight years. EMEDS professionals have responded to contingencies like Hurricane Katrina, humanitarian missions in Central America and multiple locations around the AOR.

“The EMEDS concept is ideal for our work in Southwest Asia,” said EMEDS Commander Col. Helen Horn-Kingery, who is deployed from Eglin AFB. “We are completely mobile and compact, and thus have a ‘smaller footprint’ and less airlift required. Our Airmen are trained professionals who excel in emergency care. When you combine this level of excellence with our cutting edge technology, it’s a win-win situation.”