During the past two months, Soldiers of the 28th Combat Support Hospital have experienced a rapid change of personnel and many new Soldiers have joined veteran Soldiers within the unit’s ranks.

As the unit moves closer to its date with the joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. in March and eventually, its deployment to Afghanistan next year, the week of Dec. 3 through 7 presented the perfect training opportunity.

Unit members converged on Normandy Drop Zone to become familiar with setting up a field hospital and unloading patients from an ambulance in a field environment.

According to Col. Charles Bradley, commander, 28th CSH, it was very important for his Soldiers to conduct the training before its upcoming training rotation and deployment.

“It’s been a great opportunity to come out here and train,” he said. “The main design of our field training exercise is to prep the organization for our JRTC rotation, 13-01 and validate our site establishment, the equipment needed and the resources required.”

Bradley said it also allowed them to use military decision making process with mission command headquarters and provide hospital training for the medics assigned. He pointed out that establishing the site was probably the most challenging aspect of the training.

“A combat support hospital has quite a few difficult tasks. One of them is the site set-up, because the staking portion has to be very specific so that the hospital can be tied in, mainly because the surgical wards, X-ray capability, pharmacy and lab ISO (intermodal) containers need to be extremely level and tied in to keep the hospital clean,” Bradley said.

He added that the planning phase, which includes the staking process, actually took place a week before the unit moved to Normandy Drop Zone. Along with Bradley, Master Sgt. Zimberlist Hester and other leaders mapped the layout of the various modular tents that make up the facility.

“I am a critical part of establishing the hospital because that is my duty and responsibility,” Hester said. “This week has been perfect. I really believe that we’ve met our objectives for this field training exercise. And for some of our new Soldiers, it was a good experience for them.”

Hester likened site planning to breaking ground for the work of an architect.

“That’s what we do,” he said. “We’ll take a bare piece of land, anywhere from five to 12 acres, take the measurements that we have for the hospital and we place the measurement on the ground, so that it is exact enough that the hospital connects. If the hospital did not connect, we would have more issues with controlling infection and trying to manage climate, which is really important to taking care of patients.”

The modular facility features most of the accommodations that you would find in a facility smaller than Womack, but in a combat environment.

While in the field, the 28th CSH, whose Soldiers are also known as the “China Dragons,” will consist of an emergency facility, operating room, intensive care unit and wards, a lab for blood work, a radiology clinic, a sick-call clinic and a waiting area for patients who have yet to be seen.

Bradley pointed out that the 28th CSH features 10 units: four airborne forward surgical teams at Fort Bragg; the 1st Medical Logistics Company; the 432nd Blood Support Detachment, which is currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom; 207th Neurological Detachment, which works on head and neck injuries and traumatic brain injuries; and Companies A, B and D of the 28th CSH. He said the 28th CSH is also responsible for one unmanned unit in the 44th Medical Team (Pathology), which virtually conducts the analysis of infectious health hazards.

The 28th CSH’s facility also featured an intermediate care ward, which takes care of patients after they leave the operating room.

“We take care of the patients who are medically stable and some who are medically unstable,” explained Maj. Latonya Walker, the ward’s officer in charge, who said she participated in the unit’s 21-day field training exercise in March. “We get patients from the OR, depending on what it is, surgical patients and we could get the (intensive care unit) overflow, during a mass casualty event.”

Walker also said during a mascal, one of its three ICWs becomes an expectant ward, which provides a holding area for patients.

“We have three ICW’s, each capable of holding 20 beds,” Walker explained. “During a mascal, we convert ICW 3 and we will divert a nurse over there to make sure that the patients are comfortable as they transition to the other side.”

Walker said she was confident in the unit’s training this week.

“We’re pros at this. We were out here in March for 21 days. After doing it for 21 days, five days is like a no-brainer,” she said.

“I think the training has gone pretty well. We’ve had an influx of staff who have left the unit and others who are new. This short exercise actually gives us an opportunity to refresh and re-train the brand new medics that come in,” said Sgt. Christopher Marquez, a Guam native, who handles the logistical needs of the ICW.

According to Capt. Beatriz Martinez, who is new to the unit, the FTX was an important aspect in training the unit for its upcoming JRTC rotation.

“I think it’s very important to know your equipment, how it works and as a team, how to put up your stuff and that we’re prepared as we move toward our deployment,” she said.

“I’m new to the team, so I think this is a great opportunity for me to work with the team. It’s important to know how everything works and everyone has been very proficient and professional as they teach us.”