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AF, Navy medical teams integrate at sea

GULF OF ADEN (AFNS) -- Airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Medical Group’s Mobile Field Surgical Team and Expeditionary Critical Care Team embarked aboard amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio (LPD 17). The group will augment and train with the ship's existing medical personnel to provide additional surgical capabilities while in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations from July 29-Aug. 18.

"We typically go out on short missions, set up shop, and provide immediate damage control surgery and resuscitations," said Air Force Maj. Brian Layton, a general surgeon for the Mobile Field Security Team. "We provide surgical care at or near the front lines, bringing care to the troops before flying them to larger facilities."

The six-member Mobile Field Surgical Team consists of a general surgeon, emergency physician, orthopedic surgeon, anesthesiologist, operating room nurse and an operating room technician. The Expeditionary Critical Care Team is made up of an internal medicine/critical care physician, respiratory technician and critical care nurse.

Together, the two teams create a frontline, mission-ready medical care team that strengthens the relationship between the Air Force and Navy. For most members of the mobile surgical and expeditionary care teams, this is the first time they've been aboard a U.S. Navy vessel.

"Even though they've never been on a ship, they took to it like a fish to water," said Navy Lt. Kaitlyn Mula, the San Antonio senior medical officer. "They work with the same equipment they work with on land, so their jobs and area of expertise haven't changed."

The joint partnership has been tested since their arrival with mass casualty and medical emergency drills -- exercises designed to improve medical response time and to allow both services to share their best practices and techniques.

"While (we) emergency medicine folks are ready to resuscitate and stop the bleeding, the surgeons are looking one step ahead on how to definitively fix the person," Mula said. "They help us in learning how to do our primary assessment in a way that's going to help the patient once they get to the operating room."

With daily training and improved communication, the Navy and Air Force have created a seamless team aboard.

"The teamwork has been very good," Layton said. "I've been very impressed with the Navy side. The mass casualty drills we've been doing have been the smoothest I've ever seen."

The 379th EMG operates a 10-bed hospital, provides primary care to over 8,000 U.S. and coalition partners, and serves as a surgical referral facility for U.S. Central Command. In addition, it is CENTCOM’s primary expeditionary medical asset.

The San Antonio is deployed as part of the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to conduct maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

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