FORT McCOY, Wis. –
Imagine building a hospital out of nothing. When you arrive at the grid coordinates provided, you find an open field surrounded by thick underbrush and tall conifer trees. As you begin work, your boots become caked in mud from the morning downpour, and sweat soaks your shirt in the hot afternoon sun. The air feels sticky and the mosquitoes are thriving.
Your mission is to create a fully-functional hospital with the capability to quickly assess casualties and perform advanced medical procedures in an austere environment.
Col. Michael Magner, commander of the 410th Hospital Center, said that setting up a field hospital from the ground up is not a new skill, but one less practiced in the last 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Combat Support Training Exercise is really about taking our own equipment out to the field, pulling it out, setting it up, making sure it works, making sure that we are trained to use it and trained to set it up properly, and go through a lot of realistic scenarios,” said Magner.
Previously, U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers deployed overseas to bases already equipped with the comfort of hardwall infrastructure. This CSTX rotation prepares Soldiers for future combat operations, expecting Soldiers to become more self-sufficient.
The 78th Training Division, in charge of this iteration of CSTX and Global Medic, designed the exercise to encompass realistic training scenarios to prepare Soldiers for the potential of a near-peer fight in a multi-domain environment. The exercise was spread across various improved tactical training bases on Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 7-21, 2021.
“We don't have engineers who come out to build our hospital. It is all our medics, or nurses, or physical therapists, or doctors [...] out there pounding the stakes [for the tents],” said Magner.
The field hospital construction team was divided into three sections: the staking team, water power team, and tent team.
Maj. Lucas Marcum, a critical care nurse with the 348th Field Hospital and a member of the staking team, said that the field hospital is designed to accommodate 94 hospital beds and consists of two intensive care units, three intensive care wards, two minimal care detachment wards, computer tomography, X-ray, pharmacy, blood lab, two operating rooms, central sterile processing and patient registration.
Many different U.S. Army Reserve units came together to collectively train and make the field hospital possible, including the 311th Medical Detachment (Surgical), 901st Medical Detachment, 348th Field Hospital, 378th Field Hospital, 410th Hospital Center, 624th Forward Surgical Team, the 1st Forward Surgical Team, and the 336th Training Squadron from the U.S. Air Force.
Sgt. Serene Fanfair, a patient administration specialist with the 348th Field Hospital, said she was most proud of the collaboration between her team and the other sections in the exercise.
“It’s our first time working together as a hospital. So, all of these different units coming together from different places and getting to work with each other is really kind of an exciting thing,” said Fanfair.
Fanfair said this was not her first time participating in CSTX, and that one of the improvements she noticed were the new medical tents.
“They’re easier to set up,” said Fanfair. “A few Soldiers have been shown how to set up [the tents], and they will teach others.”
Fanfair said some of the highlights of the new tents included built-in floors, air conditioning, and lights easier to hang than previous sets.
Spc. Tiffanie Mondina, a surgical technician with the 378th Field Hospital, said CSTX was her first annual training since joining the U.S. Army Reserve.
“I was very excited to learn how to set these [tents] up,” said Mondina. “Now, since doing that, I'm excited to learn what my job is … if and when we actually deploy.”
The skills learned during CSTX and Global Medic prepares Soldiers to be able to mobilize quickly and employ the necessary capabilities to win the future fight.
“It’s been fun. You learn each other's strengths. You learn challenges that you need to work on when you come back and how to help other battle buddies,” said Mondina. “I'm really proud of my team [...] and I feel very confident in us if something were to happen.”