Nearly 20 years ago, while enrolled as a College of Medicine student, Sean M. Hussey, MD ’97, never thought he’d find himself as a commander in the U.S. Navy, serving in a Middle Eastern desert halfway around the world. Embedded as Force Surgeon, U.S. Marine Corps Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force, to provide care for Marines and coalition forces in Operation Inherent Resolve, Dr. Hussey is writing a three-part series blog about his in-country experience.
Blog Post 2:
It has been three months now since our arrival in Kuwait in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and we have settled into a routine, although I am still adjusting to the 115 degree days with 20-30 mph winds. Practicing medicine in a foreign, austere environment with limited supplies is not an easy task under the best of circumstances. Doing so in a sandstorm in the blazing heat with the threat of hostile enemy fire or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) can at times be nearly impossible. The doctors, physician assistants, nurses, and corpsmen of the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force are a dedicated group separated by geography across the Middle East but linked by a courageous call to duty to serve the brave men and women of the United States Marine Corps.
Fortunately, to this point, medical care has been primarily focused only on preventive medicine and small, training related injuries. All members of the force continue to be subjected to immunizations for typhoid and anthrax and receive frequent briefs on consuming copious amounts of water to prevent dehydration and avoiding the frequently spotted lethal Androctonus crassicauda (fat-tailed scorpion). Navy Medicine has specialized Preventive Medicine Technicians (PMTs), enlisted Sailors who are trained to perform inspections of dining facilities, hygiene and water stations, and berthing areas. Our unit has three PMTs who have been extremely busy and have proven to be a valuable asset to our Commanders, who, after a decade of war in this region, appreciate the importance of prevention. Countless man-hours have no doubt been preserved thanks to their tireless work.
The foundation of our medical capability is the Fleet Marine Force Corpsman (what the other services refer to as “medics”). Embedded with the Marines at the front lines of the fight, these young Sailors, most armed with just 19 weeks of medical training, provide the first response and buddy aid to injured Marines that in many cases can mean the difference between life and death. Although our current missions and rules of engagement have kept combat-related trauma to a minimum, we rehearse mass casualty drills with our Corpsmen regularly to maintain their unique skill set. Our Navy corpsmen work closely with the Air Force medics and coalition forces medical personnel on these casualty training exercises to better prepare themselves to provide care for our most seriously injured troops. Navy Medicine has an obligation to the Marines to care for them in any situation regardless of injury or environment. Therefore I, as the leader of the medical unit, must expose our medical teams to a variety of combat scenarios so they are trained to focus on their duty under extreme circumstances.
We have nearly reached the halfway point, a milestone in any deployment. Each day is viewed as a new challenge and comfort is not to be substituted by complacency. The excitement and challenge of keeping a fighting force healthy and ready in a unique environment continues.
Semper Fidelis and GO BUCKS!!