SOUTH CHINA SEA – In defense of their country, Marines stand ready to go into harm’s way. To ensure they have the best medical care available, as close to the front lines as possible, the Navy integrated Fleet Surgical Team (FST) 3 with the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) Medical department to expand the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) medical capabilities.
“FST 3 moved aboard Boxer last July and began formally integrating with the medical department,” said Cmdr. William B. Wagner, FST 3 officer-in-charge. “We used the trip to Seattle Sea Fair to build friendships with Boxer’s crew, get our ‘sea legs’, and provide the team some initial shipboard training. The FST provided didactic and skill lab training to Boxer corpsman. We ran combined casualty reception drills throughout workups. Even now we continue to refine and advance our ability to work together as one team.”
FST 3 is a complementary augmenting corps that expands medical treatment capabilities to enable greater levels of care.
“FST 3 adds surgical capability to Boxer’s medical department,” said Wagner. “This requires not just a surgeon, but also an anesthesia provider, perioperative nurse, and surgical technicians. We have a corpsman with specialization in laboratory medicine, blood banking, and radiology. Our intensive care unit (ICU) nurse and respiratory therapist are critical to the function of Boxer’s ICU and medical ward.”
This time around, several mental health professionals also join the team of eight officers and 10 enlisted medical professionals.
“A recent addition to FST is a psychiatry team which has proven to be a tremendous resource to the ARG/MEU,” said Wagner.
FST 3’s integration extends beyond practicing medicine.
“With the exception of some specialized shipboard taskers, FST 3 has fully integrated into shipboard life and duties in Boxer medical,” said Lt Dana Lilli, Senior Medical Officer aboard Boxer. “We are one blue medical team and we share responsibilities including watches, duty, sick call, medical screening and even maintenance.”
They received extensive training in order to meet the broad variety of challenges they may encounter during Boxer’s deployment.
“We each have specific training that is required for our respective specialties,” said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Riafel Reyes. “As a team the training courses we have received include under water egress, fire fighting, basic life support instructor, advanced cardiac life support, Navy trauma training, en route care, and clinical site visits.”
Lilli conveyed the importance of integrating the skills of FST 3 personnel into the larger corps of medical providers.
“The FST actually affords us capabilities as a level two, resuscitative surgical treatment and medical support facility,” said Lilli. “FST 3 is one of three parts of the BOX ARG/MEU medical team, and all three parts are intimately integrated and co-dependent. In my opinion, this integrated team epitomizes all that is military medicine. Our readiness and capabilities exemplify Navy medicine at its best.”
Wagner said leading FST 3 and working with Boxer medical has increased his level of appreciation.
“It has given me a greater appreciation of who I really support as a Navy physician,” said Wagner. “No other military in the world has the depth of medical personnel to support deployments, wars, and other contingencies the way we do.”
Fleet surgical teams provide resuscitative and surgical support to existing medical departments. Their range of capabilities include: emergency room response, emergency surgical care, treatment of battlefield injuries evacuated from ashore, to treating industrial-type injuries sustained in a shipboard environment, and illness that may require surgery such as appendicitis.
The Boxer ARG, 13th MEU team is currently on a regularly-scheduled deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
Boxer is the flagship of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which consists of Boxer, USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).
For more news from USS Boxer, visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd4/.