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 & the MHS Response | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

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...

DHA Director outlines how MHS standardization bolsters reform

Article
10/15/2020
Two soldiers in masks, talking

How COVID-19 repositioned the best laid plans of the DoD.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Joint Health Information Exchange | Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | Military Health System Transformation | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | MHS GENESIS Toolkit

Air Force Unit provides worldwide medical response capability

Article
10/15/2020
Two military personnel loading equipment onto an aircraft

The 379th EAES crews provide time sensitive in-flight patient care.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Readiness & Combat Support

DHA’s new Joint Operations Center serves as essential integration hub

Article
10/14/2020
Three military personnel looking at a document

From conference rooms to one location, DHA’s JOC gets an upgrade.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support

Annual flu vaccine remains a health priority during COVID-19 era

Article
10/13/2020
Military personnel getting flu shot

Annual vaccine is a covered TRICARE benefit.

Recommended Content:

Immunization Healthcare Division | Vaccine-Preventable Diseases | Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine

DHA priorities focused on readiness, patients, outcomes

Article
10/7/2020
Defense Health Agency Director Army Lt. Gen. Ronald Place speaks at a podium.

Adaptation key to providing outstanding care to beneficiaries.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Care Administration & Operations | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Quality & Safety of Health Care (for Health Care Professionals) | Clinical Quality Management | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

‘I am Navy Medicine’ – helping another in need - Hospitalman Grace Pridmore of NMRTC Bremerton

Article
10/7/2020
Corpsman conviction of care, compassion and competence…Hospitalman Grace Pridmore, from Kellyville, Okla., assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton Detachment Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS), was acknowledged for her selfless effort by Capt. Shannon J. Johnson, NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer, for identifying another Sailor at risk and taking quick action to help get the Sailor to the appropriate level of care, very possibly saving a life (official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer).

It takes more than just awareness to respond to someone showing signs of distress.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | | Psychological Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

NMHM documents military medicine advancements during the Civil War

Article
10/5/2020
Old-time photo of soldiers with crutches, canes, and missing limbs.

Initial challenges to military medicine stemmed from limited medical knowledge and lack of organization in the medical corps.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Our History | National Museum of Health and Medicine

Maintaining positive social media interactions during COVID-19

Article
10/2/2020
Image of soldier looking at his cell phone. Click to open a larger version of the image.

Experts discuss good, bad of social media during pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Defense Health Agency celebrates seven years of service

Article
10/1/2020
Lt. Gen. Ronald Place holding a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery

Seven ways DHA has improved military readiness over the years.

Recommended Content:

Defense Health Agency | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Military Health System Transformation | Health Care Technology | Global Health Engagement | Information for Patients: About TRICARE | Total Force Fitness

Easy steps to understanding & thwarting depression during COVID-19

Article
9/30/2020
Five people sitting on yoga mats outside in the grass

Learning self-care strategies can help you take charge of your life and improve your mental and physical health.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | | Depression | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Psychological Fitness

Suicide Impacts Us All – But There Is Help!

Article
9/14/2020

September marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Warrior Care

From Ghana to Washington, Sailor provides leadership during COVID-19

Article
9/10/2020

Acquiring supplies, in general, has been a hurdle worldwide.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

WRAIR bids farewell to first all-female command team

Article
8/31/2020
Image of two soldiers, wearing masks, passing a flag. Click to open a larger version of the image.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, WRAIR dove headfirst into efforts to prevent, detect and treat SARS-CoV-2 with 22 research proposals and nearly $75 million dollars in funded projects.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Camp Zama veterinary medicine continues during COVID-19

Article
8/28/2020
Two veterinary personnel wearing masks examine a dog

[T]he facility’s team does everything possible to make patients feel comfortable.

Recommended Content:

Veterinary Service | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Dr. Fauci delivers COVID-19 update at joint Grand Rounds

Article
8/26/2020
Two men in masks; one a military soldier, and the other wearing a suit.

Leading expert gives update on COVID fight to military medical community.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response
<< < ... 21 22 23 > >> 
Showing results 301 - 315 Page 21 of 23
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.