DONA ANA RANGE COMPLEX, N.M. – During the American Civil War, Maj. Jonathan Letterman, the father of battlefield medicine, developed the first mobile field hospitals, which revolutionized the treatment of troops in combat.
It’s an old concept, but it is still used today both in combat and during training, said Cpt. Jonathan M. Eppes, company commander for Company C, 47th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
The medics of Company C, also known as the Cobras, prove this to be true by providing medical support to soldiers in the most remote desert locations of El Paso, Texas, and Doña Ana, N.M., during Network Integration Evaluation 13.1.
“We treat soldiers as far forward as we can that way we preserve man-hours in the field,” said Eppes. “Say, if you’re a grunt and you’re carrying a heavy [squad automatic weapon] around all day, and you’re back starts hurting; a physical therapist can come and make adjustments and basically take care of you right there in the field.”
That is not all. Portable X-ray machines, blood laboratories, dental equipment and behavioral health experts are a few of the additional medical assets Company C provides even in harsh combat-like conditions.
It might be surprising to some to see such hi-tech equipment in the middle of the desert, but keeping soldiers healthy and happy are the Cobras' number one priority, said Sgt. Donald R. Tharp, a radiology technologist with the company.
“As a soldier, most of us joined to defend our rights and our freedom in our country, and I think that soldiers deserve the best - that’s my personal opinion,” said Tharp.
The Cobra mission is not an easy one, though, according to Cpt. Chelsea Lynch, a physician assistant in the unit. NIE occurs twice a year for approximately six weeks. This means soldiers must pack, unpack and set up all of the medical equipment every six months, all the while treating patients. This provides the medics a constant opportunity to practice their craft.
“It’s nonstop training, but we all enjoy what we do,” said Lynch. “It’s important.”
Soldiers rely on the medics of Company C to treat their ailments and keep them battle ready, she added. Luckily, the assets they bring to the troops out at NIE are more than enough to care for most cases they might encounter.
“To take care of soldiers, that’s our ultimate goal,” said Eppes. “The motto of the Army Medical Department is ‘To conserve fighting strength’ and that’s what we’re here to do.”
Although they are far removed from the medics of the Civil War, the Cobras plan to carry on the legacy of Letterman and treat soldiers on the frontlines. Eppes believes the soldiers of 2nd BCT deserve it.