Last MASH bids farewell

Christine June
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

***image1***Ending its almost eight-year run as the last of its kind, the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital became the 212th Combat Support Hospital Monday on Miesau Army Depot.

“Soldiers, you can be assured that if you are wounded on the battlefield, and you make it to the 212th CSH (pronounced “cash”), you will live,” said Col. Angel Lugo, the last 212th MASH and first 212th CSH commander, after the casing of the “Last MASH Standing” to the “Skilled and Resolute” colors during the conversion ceremony. “That’s how great Army medicine is, and that’s how well equipped and confident the Soldiers of the 212th CSH are anywhere.”

“What we will miss about it is when you mention the word ‘MASH,’ the American public quickly associates it with a field hospital that saves lives on the battlefield, but our Soldiers are not like those TV characters,” Colonel Lugo said. “Our Soldiers are professionals on the battlefield, and our doctors and nurses are focused on taking care of those who are wounded or injured on the battlefield.”

Converting the 212th from a MASH to CSH – still under the trademark green tents – took more than $5 million worth of the latest medical equipment and almost doubled the staff from a little more than 130 personnel to more than 250. This conversion is part of the Army Medical Department’s Medical Reengineering Initiative and mirrors the Department of Defense’s transformation to brigade combat teams.

“The Army is transforming to a modular brigade combat team focused set of units, and the new CSH fits right into that,” said Brig. Gen. David Rubenstein, Europe Regional Medical Command commanding general. “The CSH is a 248-bed hospital, but we can take an 84-bed or 44-bed piece out of it so we can be very light and mobile and be far forward and take care of Soldiers on the battlefield.”

The 212th MASH had 36 beds, while the 212th CSH is an 84-bed field hospital with its additional 164 beds with a reserve unit in the states. But if needed, the CSH can even get bigger.

“It’s the Lego effect – I need this piece and that piece and this piece for this mission, put it together and go,” said Colonel Lugo, whose last assignment was as the Office of The Surgeon General’s MRI program director, where he gained insight on the lessons learned by watching other units go through conversions. “And if the Army needed us to be bigger and cover a large area, they just give us our 164 beds or plug and play another organization like ours – that’s the beauty of a transformed modular medical force.”

This modular capacity to breakdown or grow to fit the mission is a significant part of this unit being a CSH instead of a MASH. Another important aspect is that the CSH offers more medical services to Soldiers on the battlefield.
As TV audiences saw for 11 years, a MASH specialized in surgical and resuscitative care near the battlefield. Also close to the fight, the CSH adds to these capabilities by being able to provide primary and other specialty care to patients.

“Normally, a MASH just had the intensive surgical capabilities without any primary care – no pediatricians, no OBGYNs (Obstetrics and Gynecology), no internal medicine, no family practice,” said Maj. Soo Lee Davis, 212th CSH executive officer. “A CSH already has that built into it so it prevents you from having to task organize right before you get to the deployed mission.”
For example, the 212th MASH’s last deployment was to provide care to survivors of last year’s earthquake in northern Pakistan, but before the unit could deploy they had to gather specialized equipment and professionals from other hospitals throughout Europe needed for a humanitarian assistance mission.

“Now, we don’t have to do that, they are already a part of the 212th CSH so when we get the deployment order, we take our own people and equipment, and we don’t have to task organize as much,” said Major Davis.
Specialty care and three Intermediate Care Wards gives the CSH another ability that the MASH did not have, which is to hold patients for one to three days and return them to their units.

“We are a much stronger Army if we can treat Soldiers in the battlefield for a couple of days and return them to their unit instead of evacuating them out of theater,” said General Rubenstein, who also said there were no current plans to move the 212th CSH from Miesau to another community.

This newest deployable hospital in the Army is already on its first mission. The Soldiers of the 212th CSH left today to conduct a three-week field training exercise in Baumholder.