***image1***The acronym M*A*S*H is well known outside military circles — made popular by the critically acclaimed 1970s television show.
In today’s Army, life imitates art as all but one Mobile Army Surgical Hospital has been “cancelled” due to changing military needs. The one left standing is part of V Corps, Heidelberg.
The 212th MASH ended their three-week exercise today at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
The 212th calls it a “hospital in hospital” exercise, and it gives the MASH’s field medical experts an opportunity to leave their hospital tents stowed away and train inside Europe’s largest military medical center.
The 212th is working and training side-by-side with LRMC’s staff in clinics throughout the hospital during its busiest time.
LRMC is the central receiving point for Soldiers deployed in Southwest Asia needing medical treatment beyond what is available at their deployed locations.
The 212th’s Commander, Lt. Col. David Bitterman, explained that the benefit of training there, rather than setting up the unit’s tent hospital for a simulated field exercise, is that it allows his Soldiers to deal with real patients with real ailments.
“The partnership we have with the LRMC staff is fantastic,” said Colonel Bitterman. “The procedures are the same, but here our Soldiers get to use equipment that we don’t use in the field – overall, this exercise is empowering them to able to be perform in any environment at a moment’s notice.”
The LRMC exercise requires the MASH to apply the same quick-reaction work they did in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Spc. Amanda Dodd, a pharmacy technician who served in OIF with the 212th, said “Without training like this, our skills would not become second nature, and for us to continue to be successful in the field, we need these kinds of exercises.”
Despite its need for continual medical training, the 212th learned from its experience in OIF that basic Soldier skills are equally vital to the unit’s success, said MASH 1st Sgt. Robert Luciano. Twice a week, MASH Soldiers perform maintenance on their vehicles and equipment, and somewhere in between they make time for weapons qualifications, driver training, physical fitness and a myriad of other troop tasks, the first sergeant added.
Maj. Suzanne Richardson, the 212th’s chief nurse, joined the unit for OIF with field medical experience under her belt earned during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. The MASH’s training and real-world experience form a cycle, Major Richardson said, that keeps its soldiers ready in mind and skills.
“It all has to work,” she said. “This exercise builds confidence in the Soldiers, and each deployment reminds us of the importance of training like this.”