Medics prepare for it all — including delivering babies
March 5, 2003
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — She came in dressed in camouflage, lying horizontally on a stretcher, moaning with a huge, round potbelly.
She wasn’t a pregnant warrior, but with a Kevlar helmet stuffed under her shirt, she played the part well. Attentive medics surrounded and questioned her.
“How many weeks?” asked Capt. Tim Howard, a physician’s assistant.
“Eight months,” moaned the soldier.
Helping a pregnant patient may seem an unlikely scenario for the 168th Medical Battalion, in the field for a weeklong quarterly training. But in real battle situations, military medics must be prepared to treat pregnancies — mainly of civilian noncombatants.
“People don’t always get shot, but somebody is always having a baby,” said Capt. Darin Harper, C Company commander.
The 168th Medical Battalion is unique, said Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Stuart. Its companies are the only ones in the Army with a dual mission: to provide regular health services during peacetime and to work with wartime casualties. Its four companies are distributed over the Army’s four administrative regions in South Korea.
The Headquarters and Support Company in Area 4 serves about 12,000 people, said Maj. Tzui Robbins. Unlike the other companies, it offers specialized clinics such as mental health and social work, giving it a “real-time world mission,” he said.
Last week, two of the battalion companies were practicing receiving and sorting casualties and providing what’s called primary care, Harper said. When the ambulances arrived, soldiers with the 168th Medical Battalion knew it was time to work.
The “injured” arrived in bursts, with a variety of wounds and pains. They were sorted and treated, then moved to waiting bays for evacuation.
But the field clinic also offers a variety of services, including full X-ray service and a blood lab.
“The skills we have — and develop every day in garrison — help us to do our job in the field,” Harper said.