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NEWS | March 18, 2021

Building a hospital together

By Zachary Mott 88th Readiness Division

Before the first patient can be treated, a hospital must be built. For Army Reserve Soldiers of the 256th Field Hospital, learning how to construct that hospital was on the training schedule for early March at Fort McCoy’s Regional Training Site-Medical.

Whether it is medics, doctors, nurses, technicians or supply personnel, everyone chips in to get a hospital from an open space to fully functioning.

“Nobody can do their job until the hospital is established,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ethan Leeman, the senior enlisted leader for 256th Field Hospital. “Often times we don’t have an engineer crew or an engineer group that can come in and do it for us. We are self-contained. We are self-sufficient. So, we need to know all the skills necessary to be successful in order to accomplish the mission.”

During their time at Fort McCoy, the Soldiers were divided into teams of 10 to 12 for the various tasks involved in setting up a field hospital: staking (to layout the shape and form of the facility), power, water and dolly (responsible for moving and placing the equipment that goes inside the facility).

“Everybody will come together to be able to set the hospital up from a buildings perspective. But each will have a very specific role within the success of that design and whether or not we can do our job,” Leeman said.

Soldiers of this Twinsburg, Ohio-based unit were able to focus specifically on one of the four assigned tasks to create a greater depth of knowledge about that area.

“It’s definitely not something that I thought I would be doing but it’s very good to know,” said Spc. Avery Nichols, an x-ray technician with 256th Field Hospital who was learning how to provide power to the hospital. “It’s better to be dual trained on everything. I do like that we’re actually able to focus more on power and have a few more days of it instead of flip-flopping halfway through. I can raise my hand and say somewhat I know what I’m doing. I can come out and help with that.”

The training assets provided by the RTS-Medical facility allow Leeman and his Soldiers to train on equipment that is at the leading edge of available technology.

“It’s invaluable. If you look around the rooms, this is the newest of the equipment,” he said. “They’re training on stuff that has never even come out of packages. Being able to spread it out, being able to hook it up, being able to understand what it does, what it is and how it all goes together is invaluable.

“We can’t thank RTS-Med and the experience that they have and sharing their knowledge with us to be able to actually apply some of this stuff. Often times this is the first time that we ever see things. Coming here, we get to see them and put hands on and understand the nuances that make them a little different.”

That hands-on experience will allow for a greater comfortability should they need to build a hospital in an austere, or any, environment.

“For designing purposes, for staking purposes, for putting things together you can’t do it unless you can put your hands on it. I think that’s very important to the actual training, putting your hands on and actually being able to connect things together and see how they work,” Leeman said.

This training has a focus. Later this year, Soldiers of the 256th Field Hospital are scheduled to be mobilized to provide medical assistance to U.S. Southern Command.

“At the end of the day, when we go into other missions that come along, we may be asked to set up a small triage center or an EMT section. We may need to put up two, three or four tents in support of ancillary services. We should be able to do it all,” Leeman said. “Whether it’s a small setup for a community type engagement or whether it’s a full-blown hospital in a war or a zone where we need to support a larger mission.”

By doing training such as this, the Soldiers are learning the importance of teamwork while increasing their skill sets in areas outside of their chosen military occupational specialty.

“The power can be pretty hard to set up if you run into any issues,” Nichols said. “You want to work with the stake team. Everybody is out there doing their specific jobs, you need to be right working with them. A hospital doesn’t just go up in one section and then power after staking is done. You’re all working simultaneously. If staking gets ahead of you and you’re kind of lax on your job, it’s going to make you job four times harder than it is. But if you go out there and work side-by-side, it’s as smooth as butter.”