NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — A Navy field hospital received its first battlefield casualties Thursday as workers continue to expand the facility for more troops injured in the war in Iraq.

The wounded included Army, Marine and Navy personnel and arrived from Kuwait shortly before midnight Wednesday on an Air Force C-141 Starlifter. Four on stretchers were carried to a waiting ambulance and transported to the 116-bed tent hospital; another limped to a bus. Two ill servicemembers not injured in combat also were taken to doctors for evaluation.

Those injured in fighting had mostly shrapnel and bullet wounds, but did not appear to have any life-threatening injuries, Navy Capt. Pat Kelly told reporters shortly after the patients arrived.

“Some of the other patients look to be in some degree of pain, as you would expect,” said Kelly, the commander of Field Hospital Eight. “But, again, they all are stable and they seem fine.”

A few may require surgery, he added, but some might recover to the point that they could return to duty in the Persian Gulf. He did not say which units they belong to, or how they sustained the injuries.

“We’ll keep them here until we can get them back there,” he said, at a press conference outside the entrance to the hospital. “If, on the other hand, it’s obvious that because of their injury they’re not going to be able to return to their unit, we’ll send them back to the area of their home unit as quickly as we can.”

The field hospital in Rota is one of nine available for deployment on a moment’s notice. They range in size from 80 to 500 beds, come packed in large cargo containers and can be erected in a matter of hours.

Military personnel put together the “rapid-assembly” facility in Rota in 96 hours last month. Construction began this week on a second, 250-bed hospital that can be expanded to 500 beds.

Navy Seabees leveled a large field near the naval station’s runway earlier this month to make way for the tons of equipment shipped to the base. A camp of wooden huts on the base fairgrounds is where doctors, nurses and other medical personnel from the hospital live.

Rota is one of two primary medical centers in Europe treating soldiers wounded from the war. Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany received its first battlefield casualties on Monday.

The Defense Department says 28 servicemembers have been been wounded so far. Twenty-six military members have been killed, 19 in combat, the rest in accidents or nonhostile situations.

The Pentagon selected Rota for the hospital because of its strategic location on the Atlantic coast, just north of the Strait of Gibraltar, halfway between continental United States and the Middle East.

The naval station, a Spanish base shared with the U.S. military, has a small hospital more equipped to treat personnel stationed on base and their families.

Although Landstuhl is the U.S. military’s largest hospital in Europe, Kelly said that the field hospital offers similar medical care.

“The fact that this hospital is not made out of brick and mortar does not compromise the quality of care,” he said.

Most of the members of Fleet Hospital Eight are from a Navy hospital in Bremerton, Wash. When asked when they might return home, Kelly said they would be here until “we’re told to go home.”

“It’s a good question. Many of the staff are asking the same question,” he said. “But we’ll be here until the president tells us the war is over and there is no longer a mission for us.

“But as long as the war is going on, as long as there is sick patients to be seen, we anticipate we will be here for the duration.”

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