Teamwork is key to 24th MEU (SOC) medical evacuation plan

1 Oct 2002 | Sgt. Zachary A. Bathon

With more than 1,900 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) scattered throughout the Southern region of Kosovo, the MEU's Medical Team had to come up with a plan to evacuate Marines in the case of a serious medical emergency.

To develop a plan that covered Marines from the time they debarked shipping from the USS Nassau Amphibious Ready Group until the time they re-embarked, the team spent long hours coordinating with several different agencies.

"First we had to cover the movement from Thessaloniki, Greece to Camp Able Sentry in (the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia)," said Navy Lt. Andrew H. Bertrand, medical planner, 24th MEU (SOC). "Greek KFOR provided our medevac coverage for this movement."

"If something happened to one of the Marines during the trip to Able Sentry, the Greeks would have provided us with a medevac to the 424 General Military Hospital," added Bertrand.

Once the Marine was at the KFOR Rear Hospital (424) he would receive the care he needed. But after the Marines entered the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, the U.S. Army provided medevac coverage for the movement to and from Able Sentry to their respective Areas of Operations in Kosovo.

With the Army providing support, the Marines would have been flown to the American/British Field Hospital at Camp Bondsteel in the Multi-National Brigade East region of Kosovo.

Upon arriving in the Multi-National Brigade South Region, the German Army's Rescue Coordination Center in Prizren assumed the medevac support role.
Within MNBS, the Germans could respond with a number of dedicated rotary wing assets.

"The Marine Corps can conduct casualty evacuations, not medical evacuation," said Bertrand. "The difference has to do with the state of the patient. If the patient has a routine injury, say a broken arm, then we can fly him in a Marine Corps helicopter. If the patient has an injury that is priority or urgent, meaning he needs to be moved within 24 hours to save life, limb or an eye, or has a life threatening injury we use an air asset dedicated for medical evacuation, or as it is more commonly called, medevac.

In the Kosovo 'medevac' plan, if a Marine receives an injury in the field, the Marine's noncommissioned officer would call in the casualty report. This report would then be relayed through the proper network to the appropriate COC.

From there, a MEU representative would call the Rescue Coordination Center to either let them know a casualty was enroute onboard a medevac support at the site of the injury. In either scenario, the RCC would arrange for an ambulance to transport the patient from the landing site to the Hospital at Prizren.

Once in the hospital, the MEU's Surgeon would decide whether to keep the patient at the German hospital in Prizren or if he should be moved to the American/British Hospital at Camp Bondsteel. If he required a transport, the medical team would again contact the RCC, and they would coordinate the medevac through Task Force Medical Falcon at Camp Bondsteel.

"The medical support we have received from the Germans throughout this exercise has been exceptional," said Bertrand. "They have met all of our requests and have assisted us at all levels of our medical planning and execution."

With the plan in place, the Battalion Aid Station at Camp Dragas conducted a "cherry picker" exercise with Marines from Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines to test it out.

During the exercise, the BLT requested a casevac to a simulated casualty. The request was coordinated through the BLT COC, BLT BAS, MEU COC and the German RCC. The injury was determined to be routine, so a Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 was dispatched and the
patient was flown into Prizren and taken to the hospital.

"The key to the exercise, as well as our plan was teamwork," said Bertrand. "Quality medical care for the Marines of the 24th MEU (SOC) was contingent on our ability to work together."