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

Military medicine confronts an invisible enemy

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:

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...

MSMR Vol. 2 No. 4 – April 1996

Report
1/1/1996

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Rash outbreaks, U.S. forces operating in Belgium; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Injuries and fitness in BCT units, FLW, MO; Surveillance trends: Hospitalization rates, Bosnia; Bosnia update: DNBI hospitalizations; Shigellosis case reports, WRAMC; ARD surveillance update; Supplement #1: 1995 Hospitalization Summary; Active duty hospitalizations; Hospitalization rates; Total hospital sickdays; Non-effective rates; Supplement #2: 1995 Reportable Disease Summary; All notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Force strength (December 1995).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 2 No. 1 – January 1996

Report
1/1/1996

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Cold Weather Injuries, Oct - Dec, 1995; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis – WRAMC; Surveillance Trends: CWI hospitalization rates; Hepatitis A in a SF Unit, Ft Lewis, WA; Supplement: Notifiable conditions Jan - Dec 1995; Notifiable conditions reported through MSS; Heat / Cold weather injuries; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; ARD surveillance update; Force strength (September 1995).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 2 No. 3 – March 1996

Report
1/1/1996

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, WRAMC; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Preliminary data: HEARS; Leprosy in a Navy family member, Ft Hood; Surveillance Trends: Hospitalization rates, Bosnia; Bosnia update: DNBI Hospitalizations; ARD surveillance update.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 2 No. 9 – November 1996

Report
1/1/1996

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Shigella sonnei diarrheal outbreaks; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; TB Skin Test Converters, Ft. Leavenworth; Surveillance trends: Hospitalization rates, Bosnia; Bosnia update: DNBI hospitalizations; ARD surveillance update.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 2 No. 2 – February 1996

Report
1/1/1996

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Injuries in integrated BCT units, FLW, MO; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Cold weather injuries, Ft. Drum, NY; Surveillance Trends: Hospitalizations, Bosnia; Bosnia update: DNBI Hospitalizations; TB skin test results, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas; ARD surveillance update.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 2 – May 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Tularemia case report; ARD surveillance update; Rubella outbreak in German troops, Ft. Bragg; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Injury hospitalizations, ODS; Top ten corner: Disability evaluations.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 8 – November 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Hydrogen sulfide exposure, Ft Irwin; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; GBS following Influenza immunization; Korean hemorrhagic fever, Korea; Escherichia coli 0157:H7, Fort Leavenworth, KS; PM guidance: Deployment to FRY; Cold weather injury rates, 1991 – 1995; ARD surveillance update.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 5 – August 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Heat related Injuries, July 1995; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Heat / Cold weather injuries, Jan - Jul, 1995; Classification and disposition of heat injuries; Respiratory disease outbreak, Fort Jackson; Surveillance trends: Heat Injuries 1990 – 1994; ARD surveillance update; Lightning Strike, Fort Jackson.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 6 – September 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Dermatitis outbreak, Heidelberg, Germany; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Heat injuries, Mar - Aug, 1995; Hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome, Korea; Surveillance trends: HFRS 1990-1994; ARD surveillance update.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 3 – June 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Surveillance for tuberculosis infection, WRAMC; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Top ten corner: Causes of lost duty days; Adenovirus Outbreak - Fort Jackson; ARD surveillance update; Supplement: HIV-1 infection; Status of HIV-1 infected patients; Prevalence of HIV-1, civilian applicants; Active duty soldiers infected with HIV-1; HIV-1 testing program, 1985 – 1994.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 9 – December 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Hydrogen sulfide exposure, Ft Irwin; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; GBS following Influenza immunization; Korean hemorrhagic fever, Korea; Escherichia coli 0157:H7, Fort Leavenworth, KS; PM guidance: Deployment to FRY; Cold weather injury rates, 1991 – 1995; ARD surveillance update.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 4 – July 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Diarrheal outbreak, UN battalion, Haiti; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Malaria in active duty soldiers; Supplement: Notifiable conditions Jan - Jun 1995; Notifiable conditions reported through MSS; Heat / Cold weather injuries; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; ARD surveillance update; Force strength (March 1995).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 7 – October 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Adenovirus serosurvey, basic trainees; Influenza immunization guidelines, 1995-96; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Mefloquine use in pregnant soldiers; Surveillance trends: Bacterial diarrhea; Supplement: Notifiable conditions Jan - Sep 1995; Notifiable conditions reported through MSS; Heat / Cold weather injuries; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; ARD surveillance update; Force strength (June 1995).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

MSMR Vol. 1 No. 1 - April 1995

Report
1/1/1995

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Chemical agent exposure, Germany; Selected notifiable conditions; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; Influenza-like illness, Ft Benning; ARD update; Supplement #1: 1994 Hospitalization Summary; Active Duty Hospitalizations; Hospitalization rates; Total Hospital Sickdays; Non-Effective Rates; Supplement #2: 1994 Reportable Disease Summary; Reports submitted by MT0; Notifiable sexually transmitted diseases; All notifiable conditions; Heat / Cold weather injuries; Force strength (December 1994).

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health
<< < ... 66 > >> 
Showing results 976 - 989 Page 66 of 66

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.