Clickability tracking pixel

Using United States Military Medical Units to Respond to COVID-19

It sounds good, but where are those units now?

by Eric Holdeman / March 17, 2020

In combat, there are combat support hospitals sometimes also called field hospitals that receive injured soldiers for medical treatment. Why not just deploy these to help civilian hospitals with the expected surge of patients that are expected to be coming with the spread of COVID-19? 

Here is the problem. Most of these are U.S. Army Reserve Units. The staff that make up these hospitals are ... you guessed it, working in civilian hospitals now. Yanking them out of where they are serving now to help by wearing an Army or other military branch uniform is not that efficacious. Military hospitals on installations will be doing their own response. 

However, reserve unit tents, equipment and their supplies, should they have any, would be helpful in providing expanded facility space, if not the staffing. 

What the military does have is "warm bodies" that function as an organized and coordinated whole. You can take an infantry unit and give them any task and they will do their best to execute it. I could see taking and assigning one infantry company (around 100 personnel, give or take) to each hospital. They can function as what I'll call "hospital orderlies." They need a bit of infection control training to keep themselves and other safe, but for "raw labor" they could be very helpful. The "supply sergeant" and others could help with the logistics of the hospital. Is it perfect — no. But, I heard a quick item today where someone said the Italian medical system is near collapse. One hospital had 20 COVID-19 deaths in one day. 

Physical and emotional support will be needed for hospital staff. While medical staff are used to death, they are not used to the scale we are likely to see, and also the personal threat to them and their loved ones. Another factoid I heard from the same Italian hospital is 450 nursing staff were quarantined at home because they themselves had become ill with COVID-19. 

We are running out of time to take proactive steps. You can't wait for people to be near collapse before they ask for help — which is the norm. Early outside intervention and "forced help" is needed now.  

I have often said, logistics is a time-space continuum. If you want something days from now, you have to pull the trigger now!

Platforms & Programs