Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Medical Monday: Care for the Combat Medic

—Army Sgt. Jesse Rosenfield, a flight medic with Task Force Thunder Brigade, tends to an injured soldier aboard a Blackhawk helicopter in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, in April 2011.

Having graduated at the top of the Army combat medic course atFort Sam Houston in 1989, Paula Chapman, PhD, knows firsthand the risks and challenges of this honored military profession. Today, she is putting that insight to use as a researcher.

“I suffered some of my own military trauma and basically had to work my way through it,” admits Chapman candidly. “I had to battle the demons and come out the other end of the tunnel. So that’s why I study what I study.”

An investigator at the Tampa VA Medical Center, Chapman is part of a Defense-funded study called Combat Medic Mettle. The threeyear study, now in the data-analysis phase, includes some 800 Army combat medics. More than half served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The researchers hope to pinpoint the factors that create emotional resilience and enable medics to thrive amid harsh conditions. They also want to learn what combat experiences cause the most stress. The next step will be building training programs that incorporate the findings.

The data collected so far confirm the grim challenges faced by medics during deployment: • 67 percent saw dead bodies or human remains

• 56 percent saw dead or seriously injured Americans

• 53 percent saw sick or injured women or children they were unable to help

• 26 percent reported shooting or directing fire at the enemy, and about 6 percent said they were directly responsible for the death of an enemy combatant

Medics are expected not only to care for their comrades—and for allied troops and civilians—but to function as warriors. In fact, they may need to render care for the same enemy fighter they shot at moments earlier.

“The combat medic attached to a foot patrol has to also act as a soldier,” says Chapman. “They may be gunning down an enemy combatant at one point, and then have to go provide aid to him.”

“Compassion fatigue” is another concern. By nature, says Chapman, medics want to help other people. When they can’t do so, this causes stress. This is the same problem that was documented among many doctors and nurses who served in Vietnam.

“The caretaker begins to be traumatized and fatigued because of the sheer volume of what they have to do and some of what they’re seeing,” says Chapman. “Remember, medics go into this job because they want to help people. When they see ill or injured persons—especially women and children—and can’t help them because the area’s not secure, that’s likely to have an effect on them.”

Chapman also points out that combat medics often see more action than other soldiers. “They may go out with one squad one night and another squad the next.”

The fact that medics know the foot soldiers they are caring for—unlike doctors or nurses at field hospitals—adds yet another layer of stress. “Not only do they have to help them, but they know these people,” notes Chapman. “They serve side by side with them, and they may have seen how the injuries occurred. So it goes beyond compassion fatigue—there’s a little more to it with a combat medic.”

Based on the data they have so far, Chapman and her military colleagues point out that depression symptoms appear to be more common than posttraumatic stress symptoms among medics three months post-deployment. But the researchers are continuing to track study participants to see which symptoms subside over time and which get worse.

Chapman’s team is now launching a related study in conjunction with the Army Medical Department Center and School. The effort will focus on traumas that combat medics may have experienced prior to training, as well as baseline risk and protective factors that could reduce or promote resilience. The goal is to learn which risk factors can be ameliorated, and which protective factors enhanced, through combat-medic training.

Chapman and colleagues plan to include experimental tasks to see how trainees respond to emotional stress. The researchers will measure the heart’s electrical activity through electrocardiograms. They will also look at other known indicators of stress: respiration, eye movement, muscle response, and galvanic skin response—changes in the skin’s ability to conduct electricity. Emotions such as fear, anger and startle can activate sweat glands, and the extra moisture increases conductivity.

Chapman plans to also help conduct a trial involving Navy corpsmen, who care for Marines on the battlefield. Yet another study in the works will zero in on the issue of loss—how medics are affected when they “lose” soldiers, versus being able to save their lives. She hopes findings from all the research will guide the way to improved training to better prepare medics for their role, which is succinctly defined in their creed: “These things we do so that others may live.”

Article by JTOZER, DOD News site

We send a lot of care and comfort items for our deployed medics, not just for their patients. DVD's, coffee, snacks, magazines, special-requests for a favorite treat from back home and endless other items. If you'd like to help adopt a unit of medics on the front-lines, contact us at


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Laundry in a combat zone

Now I understand why we get so many requests for new socks, underwear and laundry detergent from the front lines.

If you want to help us send these supplies to front-line combat medics, contact me a


Friday, July 22, 2011

Missing World War II Soldiers Identified

From my buddy Cory who brought this to my attention...

Welcome Home, Private First Class Harris, Corporal Hellums, and Private Owens. I thank y'all for your service and sacrifice and am truly glad y'all have returned home at last....

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of three servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Army Pfc. Lawrence N. Harris, of Elkins, W.V., Cpl. Judge C. Hellums, of Paris, Miss., and Pvt. Donald D. Owens, of Cleveland, will be buried as a group, in a single casket, on July 20 in Arlington National Cemetery. In late September 1944, their unit, the 773rd Tank Battalion, was fighting its way east to France’s eastern border, clearing German forces out of the Parroy Forest near Lunéville. On Oct. 9, 1944, in the final battle for control of the region, Hellums, Harris, Owens and two other soldiers were attacked by enemy fire in their M-10 Tank Destroyer. Two men survived with serious injuries but Harris, Hellums and Owens were reported to have been killed. Evidence at the time indicated the remains of the men had been destroyed in the attack and were neither recovered nor buried near the location.

In November 1946, a French soldier working in the Parroy Forest found debris associated with an M-10 vehicle and human remains, which were turned over to the American Graves Registration Command. The remains were buried as unknowns in what is now known as the Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium. A year later the AGRC returned to the Parroy Forest to conduct interviews and search for additional remains. Investigators noted at that time that all remains of U.S. soldiers had reportedly been removed in the last two years and that the crew was likely buried elsewhere as unknowns.

In 2003, a French citizen exploring the Parroy Forest discovered human remains and an identification bracelet engraved with Hellums’ name, from a site he had probed occasionally since 1998. The information was eventually sent to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). In April 2006, the man turned over the items to a JPAC team working in Europe. A few months later a second JPAC team returned to the site and recovered more human remains, personal effects and an identification tag for Owens.

Historians at DPMO and JPAC continued their research on the burials at the Ardennes Cemetery, and drew a correlation to those unknowns removed from the 1944 battle site. In early 2008 JPAC disinterred these remains and began their forensic review.

Among other forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence, scientists from JPAC used dental comparisons for the men and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used mitochondrial DNA, which matched that of each soldier’s relatives in the identification of their remains.

At the end of the war, the U.S. government was unable to recover, identify and bury approximately 79,000 Americans. Today, more than 72,000 remain unaccounted-for from the conflict.

Welcome home, brothers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Injured troops sleeping better now

These pictures are from a TBI clinic (Traumatic Brain Injury) at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, where troops who have been in an IED explosion and suffered concussion go as in-patients for 1-2 weeks. They rest while swelling in their brains goes down, and can return to their units in 90% of cases. The patients often have spinal bruising and small shrapnel, but are not severe enough to be evacuated out of the country.

Their nurse contacted me asking for thick foam mattress toppers, since they guys were so sore they couldn't get comfortable on the thin Army mattresses the clinic had available.

The pads were expensive - $80 each plus shipping, but with the help of some of our generous donors, Soldiers' Angels medical support team was able to purchase and ship enough of these pads to the clinic so that every in-patient could have one.

Those smiles say it all :-)

If this is the type of project you would like to help with, contact us at


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Would you like to adopt a medical unit? Join our new FaceBook Medical Support Team

We have over 60 medical units, small and large, all over Afghanistan and the Middle-East that have come to us needing support.

Some of the requests are small "we'd love to have a taste of home, like candy, cookies and some recent magazines".

Some are larger and more urgent "they have closed our laundry facility, and we are looking for detergent, buckets and clothes-pins so we can wash our clothes by hand".

And many touch our hearts "our patients lay in bed all day with nothing to do. Is there any possibility you could send a video game, Dvd player, board games to help them pass the hours away".

If you'd like to be part of Soldiers' Angels medical support team, and get daily updates to these needs and how you can help, join us on our new Facebook team.

To join, you need to be a registered member of Soldier's Angels and contact us at for complete details on how to sign up, or if you have questions.

The needs are huge, we need your help. They need us.