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III MEF group visits Pakistan, evaluates MASH operations

From right, Navy Lt. James Quick, operations officer of the Okinawa detachment from III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Lt. Col. Jamie Gannon, commanding officer of the detachment, talk with Lt. Col. Ann Sammartino, chief nurse, and Maj. Charlie McKeithen, operations officer, of the Army’s 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, Saturday.

FRED ZIMMERMAN / S&S

By FRED ZIMMERMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 14, 2005

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — Four members of Okinawa’s III Marine Expeditionary Force advance group traveled here from Chaklala Air Field Saturday viahelicopter to visit the Army’s field hospital and see how they do business.

The visit was meant for the Marines and sailors to evaluate the Army’s 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital operations, and gain insight on how they can best run their soon-to-be-established medical facility, according to Navy Lt. James Quick, the Okinawa detachment’s operations officer. They will set up their medical facility in the mountain town of Shinkiari.

The 212th MASH deployed to Pakistan from Germany last month.

The nearly 200-person main body of the unit from 3rd Marine Logistics Group, which includes 3rd Medical Battalion’s Bravo Surgical Company, was set to arrive in Pakistan Sunday and Monday. The group was scheduled to be here last week, but transportation issues delayed their arrival.

Saturday’s Army facility visit included a meeting with the 212th MASH command element and a facility tour.

“We wanted to take away some lessons learned and implement those into our operation to increase the effectiveness of our services,” Quick said. One of the most important things they learned, Quick said, was the caseload — the number of patients and types of injuries. He said that information will be the “driving force of how we’re going to conduct our operation.”

“When we get set up, we’ll have to evaluate the local population and the care needed so we can tailor to the local need.”

MASH officials said they’re seeing about 86 patients and performing about seven surgeries each day. They’re also still seeing some earthquake victims with open wounds that need to be cleaned out. While they said many of the cases weren’t caused by the earthquake, they feel are all earthquake-related since a majority of local clinics were destroyed.

Another piece of advice the MASH gave: Visit local leaders so they know you’re there and what the medical unit’s capabilities are.

After touring the facility, Quick said it was good to see how the MASH is inprocessing patients — including a separate triage tent — and how they have their wards set up.

“It gave me some ideas on how to maximize our limited space,” he said. “It was also good to see how local nationals and U.S. forces can work hand-in-hand, and side-by-side, all focused on the some mission. It’s encouraging.”

In addition to lessons learned, the Okinawa group also discussed with the MASH how they can work together. Quick said the 3rd MLG group will be able to provide primary care, family care and general surgery, but they have no specialists. So, if a patient needs to see a specialist, they will have to refer the case out to either the MASH or the local community if available.

The two units will also work together as the MASH will resupply the 3rd MLG group with medical supplies, Quick said.

“We’re here for the people of Pakistan and if working together means we mitigate the suffering, that’s what we’ll do,” he said.

Barring any more delays, the Okinawa-based unit should have the capability to begin seeing patients by Tuesday.