View Full Version : Units treat Marines, civilians, prisoners

04-17-03, 01:57 PM
Units treat Marines, civilians, prisoners

By James W. Crawley

BAGHDAD, Iraq The man, his face wrapped with duct tape, his torso marked by dozens of purplish-black bruises, was dumped at a Marine Corps checkpoint in northwest Baghdad.

His attackers said he had opened fire on a crowd of civilians, who then caught and beat him.

Navy corpsmen pulled the tape from the moaning Iraqi and began examining his injuries.

"It looks like he met Mr. Ax Handle," said Lt. Cmdr. William Cupo, a Navy emergency-room doctor from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Cupo is in charge of Shock Trauma Platoon 4, which has been treating Marines from Camp Pendleton and Iraqi prisoners and civilians since the war began last month. The 20 medical personnel are from military hospitals in North Carolina and Florida.

Many of the wounded Marines have been cared for by small units of doctors and medical workers assigned to several such platoons portable emergency rooms designed to stabilize patients before they are airlifted to field hospitals farther in the rear.

During a recent two-day period, Cupo's group treated more than a dozen Marines and Iraqis who had suffered injuries such as internal bleeding, third-degree burns, broken bones, cuts, dehydration, and gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

"If they get to our door, we take care of them," Cupo said.

The doctors wear flak jackets and sidearms. Marines guard captured Iraqis as medical personnel perform their work.

"It's a challenge for the staff (to treat prisoners)," Cupo said. "Six or seven hours ago, he wanted to kill us."

Cupo strode around the platoon's treatment tent with his hands grasping the armholes of his protective vest, supervising corpsmen as they administered morphine and started intravenous fluids.

Grabbing a laptop-size ultrasound machine, Cupo moved a transducer over the beaten man's abdomen. Resting the monitor on his left hip, the doctor ran the sensor back and forth, looking for any internal bleeding.

Cupo and his colleague, Dr. Troy Borema, also a Navy lieutenant commander, suspected the man, whose name was never learned by the Marines, had internal bleeding, possibly from a damaged liver or spleen.

It wasn't known why he fired into the crowd. Some suggested the man was a Baath Party member, or perhaps a militiaman or Republican Guard member.

But because the unit doesn't have a surgeon and a fully equipped operating room, it was decided to airlift the prisoner to a Navy field hospital south of Baghdad.

The trauma platoon has been handling injured Marines, said Chief Petty Officer Torsak Vimoktyon, a senior Navy corpsman.

"We've been fortunate that we haven't had a lot of wounded," he said.

Platoons like this one are a middle link in a sophisticated system to treat the sick, injured or wounded. Traveling in a small convoy of Humvees, the units can be moved close to the action.

Along with battalion aid stations and resuscitation units, called Forward Resuscitating Surgical Suites, the platoons are steppingstones for the wounded on their way to Navy surgical companies small field hospitals dozens of miles farther back and large hospital complexes in Kuwait and offshore, aboard the Navy hospital ship Comfort.

On the battlefield, corpsmen moving with the Marines are usually the first medical personnel to treat the wounded. Those requiring more care are taken to a battalion aid station. Some go to a shock-trauma platoon, like No. 4.

Then, after evaluation and stabilization, helicopters fly them to better-equipped medical units.

If the wound is very serious, the patient can be evacuated from the field directly to a resuscitation surgical suite.

Trauma platoons use two inflatable tents that fold up into the back of specially built Humvees. Because the tents are designed to withstand chemical attack, stretchers are moved into the tent through an airlock, and medical personnel must enter through a double-door hatch with sprayers to decontaminate people.

Within a few minutes of a trauma platoon's arrival at a location, blowers inflate the tents, and the unit can be treating patients within an hour of being set up.

While every battalion has two doctors with just a year or two of experience, shock-trauma platoons such as Cupo's have two board-certified physicians, usually with extensive emergency-room experience.

The shock-trauma platoon is made up of active-duty doctors and corpsmen. Just before the war, they were assigned to this platoon and met only days before flying to Kuwait, Vimoktyon said.

There were some growing pains at first, like learning how to work together to erect the inflatable tents, the Navy chief said. But now the relationship between officers and enlisted men is relaxed.

"We've worked well together," Vimoktyon said.


Marines bring a wounded soldier to a shock-trauma platoon at Camp Viper in southern Iraq.