Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Military medicine confronts an invisible enemy

Image of Medical personnel set up in an outside military tent. Military and civilian healthcare personnel run the drive-thru testing center at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as patients come to the site for scheduled evaluations and nasal swabbing. (U.S. Army courtesy photo.)

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Warrior Care | Public Health | Coronavirus | Coronavirus

In recent decades, combat on the front lines for the American military has meant overseas deployments, missions with sophisticated weaponry, and deaths — mostly in lands a world away.

In 2020, a new enemy emerged, one hiding in the air we breathe. Just as deadly, it knows no borders, is silent, invisible.

This new battlefield includes intensive care units, labs, makeshift testing centers, and warehouses for masks, syringes, and thermometers. In this match, there is no specific theater of operations for the Military Health System.

“COVID-19 has been just this ever-evolving enemy that we’re fighting, and that’s a fight where we’ve shown great resilience,” said Raven Connell, a nurse with Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. “We continue to adapt and overcome all these obstacles that we’ve faced. We’ve had to completely revamp the way that we see and care for patients, and that’s no small feat in medicine.”

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Clifton Wilcox, public health emergency officer for Navy Region Southeast and Naval Hospital Jacksonville in Florida agrees. In April, as COVID increasingly affected his part of the world, Wilcox was working seven days a week and juggling three phones.

Then he was asked to join a small team of specialists to fly aboard the USS Kidd, a destroyer working off the coast of El Salvador with a third of its crew infected with the deadly virus. This was in the immediate wake of the highly publicized outbreak aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

“The virus caused the Kidd to return to port,” said Wilcox, who flew aboard the floating hot spot within a day of being notified. “So, it had effects not just on hospitals back in [the continental United States], but it affected our ability to remain operationally deployed. We had to race back to San Diego before things got out of control.”

The collective response to the pandemic underscored the MHS reputation for innovation, with practical applications beyond military medicine.

Image of Ms. Connell in hospital dress, wearing a mask
Army civilian Raven Connell is a registered nurse who was a member of the initial team that established Blanchfield Army Community Hospital’s COVID-19 Clinic earlier this year. (U.S. Army photo by Maria Yager)

Being nimble in the face of calamity “continues a long history of military medicine,” said Army Sgt. Major Esteban Alvarado, a senior enlisted leader at the Defense Health Agency. “The next year will continue to present challenges, and things will be a little different than we are used to. I have no doubt that the MHS team will continue to innovate, adapt and overcome in order to meet the mission.”

Wilcox barely had enough time to quarantine from the Kidd before being selected for special deployment to the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier in the Pacific that was looking to avoid the kind of trouble the Roosevelt experienced. His team included an internist, a critical care nurse, a respiratory therapist, an environmental health officer, and a microbiologist.

“Once the virus was onboard, we had to innovate in a way to re-establish the bubble on a ship without just going into port like the Teddy Roosevelt did,” he said. “We found a way to test the entire crew, twice.”

Wilcox and his teammates worked for 20 days at sea to bring the USS Ronald Reagan around.

“It was very challenging,” he said.

Re-invention of daily care at Ft. Campbell meant creating an outdoor and drive-through COVID clinic, with testing and triage, one that will be operating for the foreseeable future. But the usual MHS priority of military readiness did not take a back seat.

“When COVID hit, we’ve got two primary missions,” recalled Connell, who previously served as an active duty Army nurse. “Once we started getting that solid foundation for testing, evaluating, and treating patients with COVID, we had to formulate a plan to be able to still get active duty [troops] back in training. It was a large collaborative effort for Ft. Campbell to find out how we were going to get those missions to function simultaneously.”

This battle in 2020 was also unique in the way in which America’s men and women in uniform — active duty, Reserve and National Guard — worked in tandem with civilian colleagues in fighting a common enemy. The uniform was often simply a gown and tended to be powder blue or white. In lieu of helmets, COVID-19 fighters donned goggles, medical gloves, surgical masks, and N95 respirators.

For MHS professionals at all levels, working from home has rarely been an option. And while the recent news of vaccines that have proven effective in trials has been welcome, it won’t affect the short-term daily mission. “Business as usual” is a moving target.

“I have never been prouder to be a MHS professional in a collectively dynamic and inspiring team,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christina Pyeatt, an independent duty medic with the 90th Ground Combat Training Squadron at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming.

“Our Reserve and National Guard brethren have deployed to assist us with our operations as well as to other hard-hit states across the country.”

A collective effort sounds right to Raven Connell.

“In both civilian and military medicine, I think we’re all trying to figure out what that’s going to look like, because it’s becoming very apparent that [COVID-19 is] not really going anywhere anytime soon,” she said. “So, we’re trying to figure out what the new norm is going to be, and that’s a huge undertaking.”

You also may be interested in...

Pandemic Spotlights the Vital Role of Military Lab Workers

Article
5/2/2022
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Solomon, 18th Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of microbiology, unloads blood samples from a centrifuge at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 31, 2019. (Photo: Tech. Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks, U.S. Air Force)

MHS clinical labs produce results.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 05 - May 2022

Report
5/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Update: Sexually transmitted infections, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2013–2021; Evaluation of ICD-10-CM-based case definitions of ambulatory encounters for COVID-19 among Department of Defense health care beneficiaries; The association between two bogus items, demographics, and military characteristics in a 2019 cross-sectional survey of U.S. Army soldiers; Surveillance snapshot: Tick-borne encephalitis in Military's Health System beneficiaries, 2012–2021.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

Helping Your Child to Cope with Grief and Losses Related to COVID-19

Article
4/28/2022
Shirley Lanham Elementary School students perform Taiko drumming during a Month of the Military Child celebration aboard the Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, April 6, 2022. (Photo: Petty Officer 2nd Class Ange-Olivier Clement, Naval Air Facility Atsugi)

Many military children have lost loved ones to COVID-19. How parents can help with the grief.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

How to Help Military Children Reconnect After Two Years of the Pandemic

Article
4/25/2022
Airman 1st Class Rocio Romo, Space Launch Delta 30 public affairs specialist, and her son pose for a photo at Cocheo Park on Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, March 25, 2022. During the month of April, we celebrate Month of the Military Child to highlight the sacrifices military children make on the home front while their parents serve the United States. (Photo: Airman Kadielle Shaw, Space Launch Delta 30 Public Affairs)

How parents can help children stressed by more than two years of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child - Celebrating Military Kids | Children's Health | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus

JBLM Soldiers Start Preparing for Warrior Games With Hard Training

Article Around MHS
4/19/2022
Military personnel training for Army Trials and DoD Warrior Games

The DoD Warrior Games 2022 may be months away, but the Soldiers of Task Force Phoenix at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Tacoma, Washington already are deep into an intense training regimen in the hopes of securing some shiny hardware this August in Texas.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

“Buddy! Buddy! Are You Okay?” A Look Into The Marine Corps' Livesaver Course

Article Around MHS
4/19/2022
Combat Lifesaver Course practical

The Combat Lifesaver Course is a three-day course that teaches Marines lifesaving medical techniques to eliminate preventable loss of life on the battlefield.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

COVID-19 Booster Effectiveness Remained High During Omicron Surge

Article
4/18/2022
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Mary Ashcraft, assigned to the combat ship USS Tulsa, administers a COVID-19 vaccine booster to Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class Anthony Johnson Jan. 10, 2022, at Apra Harbor, Guam. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Petty Officer 1st Class Devin M. Langer, Command Destroyer Squadron 7)

Two new studies of active-duty service members show COVID-19 booster vaccines are effective, but uptake rates in the military community lagged behind the civilian population.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Niger, U.S. doctors treat 550 patients in Ouallam

Article Around MHS
4/15/2022
Military training

 Nigerien and U.S. doctors alongside U.S. joint service medical specialists established a temporary field clinic to provide medical treatment to citizens of Ouallam and the surrounding areas as a part of a medical civic action program (MEDCAP) in Ouallam, Niger, March 16, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

8 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to Change during the New Pandemic Phase

Article
4/15/2022
A parent comforts his child while she receives a pediatric dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 28, 2022. (Photo: Airman 1st Class Anna Nolte, 18th Wing Public Affairs)

Parents should prepare their kids for the new normal of the ongoing pandemic, recognizing that the status of the disease can change quickly as new variants of COVID-19 emerge.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus | Children's Health

DHA Director Outlines Vision for Health Care Readiness at HIMSS

Article
4/11/2022
Army Lt. General (Dr.) Ron Place during his speech at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference held in Orlando, Florida, March 2022. Place’s speech detailed his thoughts on solutions to military health care readiness. (Photo: Claire Reznicek, MHS Communications)

During his speech at HIMSS, Lt. Gen. Place discusses clear and present dangers to military medical care.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Dr. Jay Montgomery Details Importance of the Immunization Healthcare Division

Article
4/8/2022
Dr. Jay Montgomery is a medical director for DHA’s Immunization Healthcare Division. In addition to being a clinician and educator, he also volunteers with Wounded Warriors to design, build and fly radio controlled helicopters. (Courtesy Photo)

Dr. Jay Montgomery is a medical director for the Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Healthcare Division’s North Atlantic Region Vaccine Safety Hub. In his role, Montgomery helps address vaccine and immunization questions and concerns.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Military Medical Officials Back FY 23 Budget Before Senate Appropriations Committee

Article
4/6/2022
Marines with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing take precautionary measures by cleaning and disinfecting their hands during field day on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., March 20, 2020, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to perform mission-essential tasks. (Photo: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)

Military Medical officials, including Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald J. Place, Defense Health Agency director, back FY 23 Budget before the Senate Appropriations Committee, March 29, 2022.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

The New Public Health Director Talks about His Goals for Force Readiness

Article
4/5/2022
Rear Admiral Brandon Taylor of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in dress whites at the 2019 National Independence Day Parade where he represented the U.S. Surgeon General as a presiding official with the other services. Taylor was named in February as the new director of the Defense Health Agency’s Public Health directorate. (Photo: Tanisha Blaise, Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division senior public relations and media specialist)

Rear Adm. Brandon Taylor was recently appointed to be the new director for the Defense Health Agency’s Public Health directorate. In an interview, he discussed how he is approaching his new role, his goals for Public Health within DHA, and the importance of Public Health to a medically ready force and a ready medical force.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Military Health System Transformation

MSMR Vol. 29 No. 04 - April 2022

Report
4/1/2022

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Exertional heat illness at Fort Benning, GA: Unique insights from the Army Heat Center; Update: Heat illness, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2021; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2017–2021; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2006–2021

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health

How COVID-19 Made the Military Medical Community Stronger

Article
3/21/2022
Image of a service member being treated

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic has made the military medical community stronger and will help when confronting the next crisis, whether that’s another pandemic, a new conflict or natural disaster

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 69
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 20, 2022

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.