Army’s last MASH returns home to a final episode, new beginning

Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

After saving lives in Pakistan, the U.S. Army’s last MASH returned to the KMC in February from what is probably its last deployment.

About 140 Soldiers of the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital made up almost half of the 212th Task Force for Operation Lifeline. They provided humanitarian support for four months to survivors of the Oct. 8 earthquake in northern Pakistan, which killed more than 80,000 people.
“This is the last known deployment as a MASH…absolutely,” said Col. Angel Lugo, 212th MASH commander.

Based at Miesau Army Depot, the 212th MASH has been the last of its kind for approximately eight years and will convert to a Combat Support Hospital by Oct. 16, ending its run as an American household name thanks to the 1970’s TV show.

***image1***Colonel Lugo said the recognition from the show has been nice, but it’s the past and present MASH Soldiers who give the field hospital a great reputation. As an example, he cited this deployment where they quickly geared up and left their families to “save hundreds, if not thousands of lives.”

Situated at the earthquake’s epicenter, the task force treated more than 20,000 patients and performed more than 450 surgeries in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan. They also administered about 6,000 immunizations.

“We did an excellent job out there,” said Lt. Col. Ann Sammartino, 212th MASH deputy commander. “We went in there and put the hospital up within six hours and started seeing patients right away.”

The task force medical staff were not just there for earthquake victims, said 1st Lt. Tory Marcon, 212th MASH rear detachment executive officer.

 “After we had been there for two months, there wasn’t a lot of earthquake victims (to be treated), but because most of their hospitals had been destroyed, we became their main hospital,” he said.
The MASH, with its trademark green tents and hospital equipment worth 4.5 million, is still the region’s main hospital.
“We left MASH behind – the last episode,” said Lieutenant Marcon.
For the past month, the 212th MASH doctors, nurses and medics trained the 67th Pakistani Medical Battalion staff on how to use the field hospital’s equipment. As the control shifted to the Pakistani staff, MASH Soldiers came home in five groups throughout February, said Lieutenant Marcon.
The U.S. government donated the field hospital to the Pakistani military for their continued use in their relief effort, and not because of the conversion from a MASH to CHS (pronounced “cash”), said Colonel Lugo, who explained that much of the MASH equipment could have been used in the CHS.
“Hospitals have been getting closer to the fight as time goes on,” said Lieutenant Marcon, explaining that MASH started as an evacuation hospital, first seeing action in St. Mihiel, France during World War I.

“What the Combat Support Hospital has over the MASH idea is that it stays close to the fight,” he said. “MASH is very large so it stays far back from the fighting, which means gunshot or blast wounds could take an hour to get to you and by that time, too much blood has been lost.”

Colonel Lugo said there will be an official ceremony marking the conversion in October at Miesau Army Depot, and he’s looking into the possibility of inviting the TV cast members.