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Six USS Frank Cable sailors were medically evacuated to the mainland U.S. over the weekend after a steam line ruptured aboard the Guam-based submarine tender.

Suffering burns on 20 percent to 70 percent of their bodies, the six arrived at the Brooke Army Medical Center’s burn center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, at 3 a.m. local time Sunday, said Nelia Schrum, a spokeswoman from Brooke.

The sailors had been taken from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to Tripler Medical Center, Hawaii, for stabilization, before being sent on to Brooke for treatment.

As of Monday morning, five of the sailors were medically classified as “very seriously ill,” which is the military’s term for what the civilian medical community calls “critical” condition, Schrum told Stripes by phone.

The sixth sailor was classified as stable, she said.

The “very seriously ill” designation is the most serious of those used by military medical teams when classifying patients. Other terms are “serious,” “critical but stable,” “stable,” “satisfactory,” and “treated and released.”

The use of “VSI” on paperwork allows the military to transport and lodge the family at government expense to be with a patient, Schrum said.

By Monday, most of the critical sailors had family members who were traveling to or already at Brooke, where a Navy liaison had arranged rooms for them, she said.

An earlier news release from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Marianas said eight sailors were performing maintenance operations when a steam line ruptured on the boiler deck of the 28-year-old submarine tender. The sailors’ families were notified of the accident, it said.

A submarine tender is a ship that supports submarines, which cannot carry much in the way of supplies. The Cable is one of two active sub tenders, the other being the USS Emory S. Land, currently stationed off the Italian island of Sardinia.

The steam leak occurred during maintenance operations as the Frank Cable, a 7th Fleet repair ship, was moored at Naval Base Guam. The 28-year-old submarine tender is based at Apra Harbor, Guam.

The Burn Care Center at Brooke is set up specifically to receive and care for the kind of patients that result from incidents such as the one that happened with the Frank Cable, Schrum said.

Brooke is one of just 15 hospitals in the United States that have the top national certifications for both trauma care and burn care.

Brooke also is equipped to deal with many badly burned patients at the same time, unlike most civilian burn care centers, where serious cases tend to arrive in small numbers, Schrum said.

“Because of the global war on terror, we have had significant practice at admitting multiple patients,” Schrum said.

The burn team — the only Defense Department team of its kind — can depart for anywhere on the globe with just two hours’ notice, Schrum said.

Since March 2003, the team has made 59 trips to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, to pick up troops injured in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring them back to the center, Schrum said.

Allison Batdorff contributed to this report.


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