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...

Join Us!! Sixth Live COVID-19 Town Hall

Article
5/12/2021
Image describing today's Town Hall with Dr. Paul Scott and COL Clinton K. Murray, MD.  They are with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and will discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Advancement and Trials.

Join us for today's Town Hall with Dr. Paul Scott and COL Clinton K. Murray, MD. They are with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and will discuss COVID-19 Vaccine Advancement and Trials.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Navy nurse steps into Jacksonville community for COVID-19 vaccinations

Article
5/7/2021
Military health personnel wearing face mask discussing the COVID-19 vaccine program

Navy Cmdr. Glenn “Pete” Bradford is aiding the underserved Jacksonville community in COVID-19 vaccination mission

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Nurse and Tech Week: Air Force airmen are battle-tested and ready

Article
5/6/2021
12 COVID-19 patients aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft

For the past year, Air Force nurses and medical technicians have found themselves on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 disease.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | National Nurses Week | Technology | Nursing in the Military Health System | Mental Health Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

DHA, HA leaders discuss MHS Transformation at AHA panel

Article
5/6/2021
Military personnel talking at a podium

Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place and Dr. Terry Adirim discussed MHS Transformation, MHS GENESIS, and highlighted the DHA’s response to COVID-19 in a virtual roundtable hosted April 12 by the American Hospital Association.

Recommended Content:

Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | Military Health System Transformation | Genesis of MHS GENESIS | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Readiness Capabilities

EACH celebrates National Nurses Week with a reflection on the pandemic

Article
5/6/2021
Military health personnel inputting information into a computer

Evans Army Community Hospital celebrates National Nurses Week 2021.

Recommended Content:

National Nurses Week | Nursing in the Military Health System | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine returns to Military Health System

Article
5/4/2021
Military personnel wearing a face mask and a face shield administering the COVID-19 vaccine

Doses of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine became available April 29 to those in the Military Health System eligible and authorized to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

U.S. continues sending medical supplies to India for COVID-19 fight

Article
5/3/2021
A picture of a C-5M Super Galaxy

DOD provides medical aid to India in the fight against the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

U.S. Army Medical Team Administers COVID-19 Vaccines in Guam

Article
4/29/2021
Military health personnel wearing a face mask administering the COVID-19 vaccine

Army medical professionals assist in administering COVID-19 vaccine doses to local Guamanians.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Readiness Capabilities

Military kids are resilient, but far from immune to pandemic effects

Article
4/28/2021
Military personnel wearing face mask holding up posters for Month of the Military Child

Military children are known for being resilient to constant change, but COVID-19 has affected their mental health, too.

Recommended Content:

Month of the Military Child Toolkit | Children's Health | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Staying Resilient | Coronavirus

COVID-19 remote patient monitoring pilot marks initial successes

Article
4/27/2021
Photo of Army Maj. Daniel Yourk

Virtual health and other digital health technologies are an essential part of care delivery going forward for all patients, and especially the most vulnerable.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Join Us!! Fourth COVID-19 Townhall Update with Lt. Col. Matthew T. Swingholm!

Article
4/27/2021
Fourth MHS Town Hall announcement with image of Lt. Col. Matthew T. Swingholm, discussing the Critical Need for Blood Donations, Wednesday, April 28 at 2 p.m. ET

Join us for the MHS' Fourth COVID-19 Townhall Update with Lt. Col. Matthew T. Swingholm

Recommended Content:

Armed Services Blood Program | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

From coast to coast, Navy personnel helping stop COVID-19 spread

Article
4/26/2021
Military personnel wearing face mask getting people ready for the COVID-19 vaccine

From coast to coast, Navy Medicine personnel are helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

DHA’s immunization health care specialists support vaccine rollout

Article
4/26/2021
Image of military personnel getting COVID-19 vaccines ready. Click to open a larger version of the image.

The Defense Health Agency’s Immunization Health Care Division specialists were instrumental in rolling out the COVID-19 vaccines to Department of Defense military medical treatment facilities around the world.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Recovering airman finds a new path with OWF support

Article
4/23/2021
Air Force Tech Sgt. Adam Grimm  posing for a photo

Operation Warfighter (OWF) allows Recovering Service Members the opportunity to intern with over 200 federal agencies.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

DHA Appointing Portal simplifies signing up for COVID-19 vaccination

Article
4/23/2021
Image of military health personnel wearing a face mask scheduling COVID-19 vaccine shots. Click to open a larger version of the image.

A new online and easy-to-use COVID-19 vaccine appointment portal is rolling out around the world at Military Treatment Facilities. It needs some tweaking on the admin end, users say.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Health Innovation Month
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 61 - 75 Page 5 of 31

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.