ARMY STRENGTHENS COMBAT SURVIVABILITY
FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – As part of the Army's morale and welfare program, the Health Service Support System is enhanced in order to ensure the higher survivability rate of the injured soldiers during battles in the frontlines.
Originally conceptualized in 2006 under the Strengthening of the PA Health Support System, the Forward Support Medical Companies (FSMC) of the Infantry Divisions and Upgrade of Medical Platoons of Infantry Battalions (UMPIB) were activated on March 15, 2012.
Colonel Commie C Pagunuran, the Army Chief Surgeon and Project Manager of the Philippine Defense Reform Project on Forward Medical Service Support System (FMSSS), said that this initiative will improve the emergency medical care capability in the AFP leading to higher survivability rate among combat casualties.
“The command acted on the reports that there are gaps and deficiencies in the delivery of health care at Echelon I (self-aid/buddy-aid), and that there is a serious lack of emergency medical care capability in the field where it is most needed,” said Pagunuran.
Caring for the frontline soldiers is one of the thrusts of Army chief Lt General Emmanuel Bautista who has pushed for the full implementation of this project.
“Since its conceptualization in 2006, we have procured equipment to include combat life saver kits and individual first aid kits, among others. We have also procured and recruited enlisted personnel nurses, and hired physicians,” added Pagunuran.
The objective of strengthening the PA Health Service Support System, to which the activation of FSMC is a part of, is to strengthen the health service support system in order to enhance the survivability of troops in combat and conserve the fighting strength of units.
To achieve this end, the command upgraded the Combat Medics and Evacuation Section of the Infantry Battalion into a Medical Platoon, and the Medical Support Detachment of the Infantry Division into Forward Support Medical Company.
The Forward Support Medical Companies (FSMC) is assigned to the Service Support Battalion of the Infantry Division, and is composed of eight officers, 48 enlisted personnel, and three medical retainers.
The FSMC provides medical staff advice and assistance as required on an area basis to all units in the brigade’s area of responsibility. It also provides unit-level forward medical support to units without organic medical support.
It has three Medical Platoons consist of one officer and 21 enlisted personnel that is placed on Direct Support (DS) to the supported Maneuver Brigade and tasked to provide Echelon II medical care.
Echelon II medical care involves resuscitative and emergency medical care which is sufficient either to stabilize casualties for further evacuation for more definitive care or to treat casualties for return to duty. Medical care is given in the rear of the battlefield or in the brigade by a team of medical personnel with enlisted personnel trained in BMAC and AMAC.
1Lt Hiyasmin S Victorio, Chief, Admin and Personnel Service Branch, Office of the Army Chief Surgeon, and Member, PDR Project on FMSSS said that 34 out of the 48 enlisted personnel have completed the Basic Medical Aidman Course (BMAC), while 14 finished the Advanced Medical Aidman Course (AMAC).
“We make sure that we have well-trained and well-equipped personnel who can provide the necessary medical attention to our soldiers in the field,” said Victorio.
Equipped for battle
Under the Philippine Defense Reform program, the Army has continually upgraded the medical service system of the line units.
This year, the command has acquired 20,000 individual first aid kits, 1,000 combat life savers kit, 1,040 basic medical aid man bag, 62 mobile medical treatment and transport kit, 55 medical equipment set, and 19 field ambulances.
These field ambulances are humvee-type vehicles which were turned over to the Philippine Army and the Philippine Marines during the 72nd Anniversary of the Department of National Defense on November 2011.
Each ambulance is equipped with a life support system including oxygen tank, suction system, upper litter rack, sliding/stowing attendant seat, first aid kit, tools and manuals among others which can provide immediate medical response to wounded troops prior to their transfer to medical facilities.
Nineteen of the 23 HMMWV ambulances were handed to the Army in the presence of the Multi-Sector Advisory Board.These ambulances will be deployed to the different maneuver brigades, particularly in Mindanao.
Four of the ambulances will be deployed to 1ID in Zamboanga Del Sur, three to 4ID in Cagayan de Oro, three to 6ID in Maguindanao, four in 10ID in Compostela Valley and two to the Mechanized Brigades of 4ID and 6ID. The remaining three ambulances will be distributed to the 303rd and 803rd Infantry Brigades in the Visayas region and the 903rd Infantry Brigade in the Bicol region.
Mindanao area receives the most number of 16 field ambulances due to the higher number of armed clashes in the area, but the Army intends to provide field ambulances to all infantry brigades across the country.
As an off-shoot to the activation of the FSMC, various trainings will be conducted to equip the medical personnel with skills and knowledge needed to perform their delicate duties of saving the lives of injured soldiers.
Major Silas Transmontero, Chief, Plans and Research Branch, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel or OG1 said that the first batch of Casualty Management and Evacuation Training (CMET) will be conducted on June 11, 2012 at the Division Training Unit of the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro. Similar trainings will be carried out in the 6th, 3rd, 9th, and 7th Infantry Divisions.
CMET aims to enhance the capabilities, knowledge and skills of soldiers in force protection, trauma management, ambulance operations and triage – a manner of sorting the casualties according to the severity of injury and the urgency of need for care to maximize survivability.
Crossing a tightrope
Prior to the FSMC concept, the Army troops resort to field-expedient measures to save the lives of severely injured battle casualties. Though medical aids are present, critically injured soldiers are ensured of survival only when brought to private hospitals far away from the encounter sites.
There were situations when wounded soldiers were transported through commercial vehicles, and in some in rare occasions, even sleds that are pulled by domestic farm animals.
With a strategic medical support however, these instances can surely be avoided. Military ambulances with well-trained medical personnel can be promptly deployed to perform MEDEVAC missions at the most opportune time.
The challenge now lies on the elements of sustainability – continuous training and gap fill ups of medical corps, equipment procurement, and most of all, support from the nation’s leaders.
Having to cross a tightrope at times, the Army simply pushes forward. With its commitment to the people and its accountability to its own soldiers, improved medical support shall always be at front of its priorities.
Enhanced medical service
It has always been the Army’s commitment to provide an enhanced health service to its men, particularly those in the frontlines, who assume greater physical risks while performing their various mandates.
Major Harold M Cabunoc, the Army Spokesperson said that it has always been a priority of the command to ensure that medical services are frontloaded to the tactical units in the field.
“Improved health services and force protection not only lead to enhanced confidence and morale of the fighting troops, but also boost the tactical edge of the Philippine Army over the armed threats,” said Cabunoc.
He also stressed that among the priority programs to be implemented for the next years under the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) is the enhancement of the PA Health Service Support System.
“The Philippine Army under the ATR seeks to develop a responsive health service support system that will uplift the morale of personnel especially those in the field,” he concluded.