U.S. troops to return hospital to Kuwaitis
Stars and Stripes May 24, 2004
KUWAIT CITY — The Kuwaiti Armed Forces Hospital will be handed back to the Kuwaiti people in less than two months as the military prepares to build a new tent-based facility on Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
The hospital treats all American servicemembers, as well as members of coalition forces.
Although sharing the hospital building in Kuwait City was beneficial to both the civilians and the Navy’s Expeditionary Medical Facility from Portsmouth, Va., the command said it’s time to move on.
“If I had a choice I’d stay in the fixed facility,” said Capt. Martin L. Snyder, commander of the EMF. “Moving out always has its challenges. This move is fueled by some political and some compromising reasons.”
He said that the Kuwaitis asked if they could have the facility back.
“Our relationship with the Kuwaitis has been very good. We’ve been here a number of years and the Kuwaitis have always supported us, but things change so now we’re moving out,” Snyder said. “Basically, they needed more space back.”
Although having a building is nice, Snyder said the new tent-based facility would have the same capabilities of support combat and sustainment injuries, as well as more beds and more space. This means the tent hospital will be able to accommodate more elective surgeries.
“The tents will be satisfactory, they’ll be OK. For some reason, there’s always a negative connotation with tents,” said Cmdr. David E. Price, EMF executive officer.
Tents will have hardwood floors, air conditioning, and more holding capabilities than the one floor in the Kuwaiti hospital.
Once the move date comes closer, Snyder said there would be a period of dual operations, so that there is never a lull in service.
The Navy’s EMF Portsmouth took over medical services in Kuwait from the Army’s 801st Combat Support Hospital Reserve unit from Fort Sheridan, Ill.
EMF Portsmouth will have a one-year tour of duty in Kuwait and then hand off the command to another naval unit.
In the past two months, the Navy units have learned the Army’s way of being a medic, including the proper paperwork and staffing that the Army uses, according to Snyder.
Also, the Portsmouth unit had to get used to working with reservists, since it is an active-duty unit.
“There are not a lot of Navy guys out living in the middle of the desert, but the Army needed relief so we rogered up to take the assignment,” Snyder said.
The Navy EMF falls under the Army’s 8th Medical Brigade, but all medical clinics in Kuwait fall under the Navy’s command and control.
“The Navy docs are doing pretty good. Actually, I’m amazed at how modern the equipment is,” said Army Spc. Thomas Looper of the 1742nd Transportation Company out of South Dakota.
Looper ended up in the hospital while preparing to load equipment after a tour in Balad, Iraq. He fell from the top of his truck in Talil, Iraq, and broke two ribs and punctured a lung.
Looper is expected to leave the hospital soon and return home with the rest of his unit, according to the Navy doctors.