CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – As the Marine Corps transitions out of Afghanistan and returns to its amphibious roots, it is posturing itself to bolster the expeditionary nature of the Corps. This realignment will be felt throughout the planning process, including medical operations.
Officers with 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, are currently focused on this objective. Commander Ronald L. Schoonover, Lt. Cmdr. John D. Moore and Lt. Cmdr. Daniel J. Trueba have put it upon themselves to find an option for upcoming challenges as the Marines focus their attention on Marine Expeditionary Units.
To find answers, the three officers embarked to England to observe the United Kingdom’s Medical Emergency Response Team in training from July 21-27, 2013.
“The MERT team was one of the primary (casualty evacuation) vehicles for the theater in Afghanistan since we’ve been deployed there,” said Moore, anesthesiologist, 1st Med. Battalion, 1st MLG. “They’ve been responsible for multiple casualty evacuations of Marines. They do primarily point of entry to up to Role-3 medical transfers with critically injured Marines, sailors, soldiers, (Afghan National Army) and multi-national personnel.”
A role-3 medical facility is the most capable medical facility in the Afghanistan theater, and is capable of providing surgery to the acutely injured. The MERT’s job is to provide stabilizing care or damage control resuscitation while casualties are in transit. The team consists of one doctor, a nurse, two paramedics and four force protection airmen.
“We had to go learn about what they do,” said Trueba, an emergency medicine physician with 1st Med. Battalion, 1st MLG. “We don’t currently have that capability within the Marine Corps and Navy, to move our personnel from one spot to another. We went to learn from people who have been doing it since 2006. We wanted to tap into that experience as observers to see how things work,” added the Bountiful, Utah, native.
Since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001, the Marines have largely relied on teams like a MERT or U.S. Army Air Ambulance units. With the new transition, Marines and officers deployed with a MEU need to operate independently overseas. It is Schoonover, Moore and Trueba’s goal to implement a team similar to the MERT or train Navy corpsmen deploying aboard a MEU to have the same capability.
“The Marine Corps doesn’t have a defined medical platform with medical personnel on board,” said Moore, a native of Memphis, Tenn. “Our objective here was to explore options to implement more standardized courses of action for the Marine Corps to conduct casualty evacuation operations in an environment that is more kinetic and expeditionary in nature as opposed to a static and mature theater where you have assets like the MERT and (Dedicated Unhesitating Service To Our Fighting Forces) that are stationed with the Marines in country.”
Although the three officers do not want to copy the MERT, they wish to create a more flexible team that has the same capabilities of a MERT but can operate in almost any vehicle, whether that’s in the back of a CH-53E Sea Stallion or armored HMMWV, added Moore.
“The Marine Corps is saying that this needs to be developed,” said Trueba. “The 13th MEU is already starting to implement these things but I’m hoping since the 13th (MEU) started the process then the 11th MEU can move it even further, incrementing steps to developing this ability.”