Landstuhl hospital staff 'prepared for whatever comes'
March 21, 2003
LANDSTUHL, Germany — Just as soldiers in the Persian Gulf girded for their next skirmish with Iraq, troops in Europe braced Thursday for the inevitable influx of casualties and a greater push to send soldiers, supplies and equipment to the desert.
At Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, 300 beds — double the peacetime number — were dressed with crisp, clean sheets ready for battlefield injured.
At Ramstein Air Base, the European hub for cargo movement, a sea of 747s, C-17s and C-130s held men and equipment destined for downrange. The base also welcomed 600 Army Reserve members who arrived Thursday to help augment the 1,000-member Landstuhl hospital staff.
United Services Organization workers poured 15 gallons of coffee for troops before noon on Thursday at the base’s Joint Mobility Processing Center, said Kaiserslautern-area USO director Walt Murren.
At Landstuhl, the largest medical treatment facility in Europe, wards were furnished with additional beds and cots last weekend by hospital staff working overtime to meet the impending need.
“It’s going to be pretty big," said Lt. Col. Susan Raymond, head nurse of the intensive care unit, which had been expanded to 12 beds.
Injured troops sent to Landstuhl already will have been stabilized at mobile Army surgical units and field hospitals set up in other European locations and in the Persian Gulf.
Navy doctors, nurses and corpsmen were ready and standing by at a field hospital at Naval Station Rota in Spain. The temporary complex, built by Fleet Hospital Eight, based in Bremerton, Wash., has 116 beds.
Despite the incessant buzz of television news, an orderly calm prevailed Thursday morning.
“We’re prepared for whatever comes,” said Maj. Jerry Lawson, nurse manager of Landstuhl’s emergency room, which will be the first stop outside of the Persian Gulf for soldiers with serious injuries such as shrapnel and gunshot wounds and burns.
Some of the younger troops have never seen battle casualties, and that’s going to be tough on many of them, Lawson said. The hospital has added three reserve chaplains and two assistant chaplains to its permanent staff of four chaplains. Volunteers were ready and waiting to visit with patients in need of a kind word, Chaplain (Col.) David McLean said.
“People may go about doing their job in a professional, systematic way,” when dealing with a battle casualty, McLean said. “Later, they may deal with the emotions a different way, with humor or with crying. That’s why we are so intent on caring for each other.”
Contributing to this report: Scott Schonauer in Rota, Spain.