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BAUMHOLDER, Germany — It’s about as common a sight at high school football games as hot dog stands and marching bands: an ambulance on stand-by in case of some injury.

Now, Installation Management Command Europe leaders are reviewing whether a longstanding policy requiring garrison commanders to provide an ambulance at contact sporting events, including basketball and wrestling, should be discontinued.

"The review has nothing to do with funding. It is about providing consistent levels of support to our Soldiers and Families, as well as levels of support that are consistent with established policies," said IMCOM-Europe spokesman Thomas Saunders in a prepared statement.

An IMCOM-Europe official added that though the policy is being re-examined, funding is available for ambulance service for the remainder of this school year if needed.

IMCOM-Europe’s review is in response to an issue that was raised during a garrison "Component Commanders Advisory Council" meeting in August 2007. Questions were raised about why there are different standards for medical care at different DODDS contact sports venues across the branches of service.

U.S. European Command policy requires EMT-qualified medical coverage to be provided by local installations at Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe contact and collision athletic events.

In addition, a DODDS designated individual with a cell phone and medical emergency contact telephone numbers must be present throughout the competition.

However, EUCOM policy does not require an ambulance to be present at contact sporting events such as football.

Nonetheless, over the years the Army has opted to provide the precautionary service.

At least one long-time football coach says he’s not concerned about a potential policy change.

Marcus George, head coach of the Ansbach High school football team, said for his school it’s not necessary to keep an ambulance on call.

"I think it has a lot to do with access. I can only speak about our situation here. We can have an ambulance respond in five minutes," George said.

In the case of Ansbach, there also is a team doctor at all the games along with two registered nurses. "We’re in pretty good shape," said George.

During his 21 years of coaching in DODDS and eight additional years stateside, George said he’s never witnessed a life-threatening situation on the football field.

Saunders said all the agencies affected by the policy will take part in discussions about whether a change is needed. A decision could be made as early as next week or could come later.

"The important thing people need to know is that leaders at very senior levels in the agencies involved are looking at this because they want to ensure our people get the consistent, quality medical service they expect at any IMCOM-E garrison hosting a DODDs sporting venue," Saunders said.

In other words, if IMCOM-Europe opts to change its ambulance policy, medical professionals will still be on site at games.

Any change would mean the policy would be realigned to comply with standards set by the Defense Department and EUCOM to ensure sporting venues have adequate medical services, he said.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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