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Airman 1st Class Jonathan Bowie, medical technician, works with a training dummy during a demonstration of the Expeditionary Medical Support system Wednesday at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
Airman 1st Class Jonathan Bowie, medical technician, works with a training dummy during a demonstration of the Expeditionary Medical Support system Wednesday at Yokota Air Base, Japan. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Yokota’s medical community unpacked and tested its Expeditionary Medical Support system — a deployable tent hospital — during an annual exercise this week.

As rain from approaching Typhoon Tokage drenched the base, and medical support staff placed sandbags around the olive-drab nine-tent system and put their mops to work, officials opened its zippered doors to the public Wednesday morning.

The system, designed to be lightweight and highly mobile, works on a “building block” concept. In its basic form, it’s composed of three tents staffed by one doctor and one technician. Additional staff and tents, or building blocks, can be added.

On Wednesday, the system was at its maximum capability, called EMEDS+25, with an 86-person staff, beds for 25 patients and surgeons who could perform up to 20 major trauma surgeries in 48 hours.

“There is no question that this technology works,” said Col. Mark Presson, 374th Medical Group commander. He said documentation proves it saves lives.

Presson said the yearly requirement to pull the system out of its crates and test it allows his staff to ensure the gear is operational and to become familiar with its operation.

For Airman 1st Class Jonathan Bowie, a medical technician who never had worked in an EMEDS before, the training was a welcome break from his routine duties, which include taking blood pressure and temperature readings.

“It’s a good experience,” Bowie said. “You get to learn a lot, being a young airman. It’s more hands-on and you’re working directly with the patients.”

But on Wednesday, his patient was a dummy in the patient ward, with an amputated leg and eye injury. About half of the patients were training dummies and the other half were base medical personnel, recruited to make the experience more realistic for the press and other visitors.

“Please look like you’re in pain,” one journalist requested of Senior Airman Terrence Brown, sprawled out on a stretcher in the emergency room with a fake piece of wood protruding from his upper arm.

Terrence smiled sheepishly and groaned a few times.

“Will that work?” he asked as the TV cameramen crowded around the table.

Yokota has one EMEDS system. Parts of the system, or members tasked to work it, can be deployed worldwide. In 2002, the EMEDS was deployed to Guam to assist with the aftermath of a typhoon.

More recently, Col. Gloria Hoban, 374th Dental Clinic commander, deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, for 90 days to command the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group.

The 332nd’s main mission was to act as an air staging facility where casualties from Iraq transited out of the country.

She called the EMEDS system successful in a deployed environment.

“It’s almost a fixed facility in a mobile location,” she said. The only problems were minor, like dust or water, she said, pointing at the damp floor. She stressed the problems were minor annoyances and didn’t affect the quality of the health care, especially in the operating room, which is designed to keep dust out.

Presson said the system creates confidence for deployed troops because of its capabilities.

“The system allows us to inject medicine — and very sophisticated medicine — forward,” Presson said. “And that translates to saved lives.”


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