CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait –
The command surgeon for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command's operational command post here said he is wrapping up this his fifth overseas deployment happy with his team and their work.
"I really found a great group of people, who were motivated to serve the country, and to do great things," said Army Reserve Lt. Col. Frank Vazzana, who deployed here with the Indianapolis-based 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), whose Soldiers staff the 1st TSC-OCP.
Typically, reserve component physicians deploy for 90 days, but Vazzana said he will have been mobilized for roughly 135 days because of the responsibilities of his position. His previous deployments since 2013 were to the same job here, as well as to Qatar, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to South America.
"I was not organic to the 310th. I am from a combat support hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida," the colonel said. "I was attached, not assigned to the 310th in July 2020, and I intend to remain with the 310th, so I will be organic," the Belleair, Florida, resident said. "I think the leadership here is cohesive--we have a great team--and I am hoping to stay with them to do great things for the Army."
Vazzana said his civilian medical work as a hospitalist back home is not similar to his work here at all.
"On the civilian side, I am a hospital provider, a physician providing care for a geriatric population," he said. "I take care of people from the time they get to the hospital, when I admit them. I consult as necessary. I discharge them back to the primary care provider in their community."
Looking back on his tour, vaccine roll out
Vazzana said he is pleased the Soldiers and other military and civilian personnel received excellent medical care here from 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), deployed from Forest Park, Georgia.
The 3rd MED is responsible for medical services in the U.S. Central Command footprint. The unit also oversees the 228th Combat Support Hospital, from Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, whose Soldiers operate the Troop Medical Clinic.
"They are doing a phenomenal job," he said. "They've initiated a highly-intensive management program for behavioral health patients. They have also rendered care at the Troop Medical Clinic--excellent care as far as every metric I have seen."
There have been challenges, he said.
"We did have a brief time when the providers were not coming to theater due to paperwork issues," the colonel said.
"In order to support them, I covered down and for nine days. I was a medical provider there rendering care at the Troop Medical Clinic, so that care could continue," he said.
Another highlight of his tour was the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccinations in theater.
"I think it was a slow start--in my opinion, not the Army's," he said.
"But, once we vetted all the possible errors that could occur, transport and cold storage capabilities--once that greenlight was a go, we've done a tremendous amount of vaccinations," he said.
"By the end of April, everyone who has their hand up and wants a vaccine in CENTCOM will be able to have that vaccine," he said.
Vazzana, others recognized by U.S. ambassador to Kuwait.
In the first days of the colonel's time in Kuwait, he and two members of his team, Army Reserve 1st Lt. Mitchell Mackesey, the command medical operations officer, and Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Justin McKay, command's senior medic, responded to a terrible incident on a local highway.
"We were tasked to come down from base to another within Kuwait," he said. "I was in the back seat we came to a sudden stop, because a gentleman was hit by a car next to us--we were going 120 kilometers an hour, the rest of the traffic was going around 150--That person flew 40, 45 feet in the air, landed directly in front of us, and we immediately stopped." 120 KPH is roughly the same as 75 miles per hour and 150 KPH is roughly the same as 93 mph.
McKay, the driver, executed a short stop to avoid hitting the man in front of them, he said.
"We ran out to render aid and the man would have certainly died on the spot, if we were not there," Vazzana said. "We sustained life while we were there, and we were there for approximately 27 minutes." The man eventually succumbed to his injuries.
U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait Alina L. Romanowski recognized the three men at a Feb. 18 ceremony at the embassy, attended by Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Justin Swanson, the commanding general of the 310th ESC, and Army Reserve Command Sgt. Maj. Keith Gwin, also with the 310th.
"I would like to use this as an example of our values—the important values that we hold—for human beings and for what goes on in the world," said the ambassador at the ceremony.
"Thank you for what you did: it is part of your nature, it is part of your profession, it is part of your training," she said.
"It shouldn’t have to be Americans in uniform and doctors trained—it should be a part of humanity."