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...

VAX Fact Currently Pregnant

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Fact: Should I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I'm currently pregnant? Talk with your healthcare provider to help you decide if you should get a COVID-19 vaccine.  Clinical trials evaluating the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines may offer data and outcomes in the future.  The CDC has a smartphone tool called v-safe.  It offers personalized health check-ins that you can enroll in after a vaccination.

An infographic answering the question of whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you're currently pregnant.

Recommended Content:

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

VAX Fact Current Infection

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Facts: Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I currently have a positive COVID-19 infection: No. People with a COVID-19 positive test result or illness symptoms should wait to be vaccinated until they recover and meet the criteria for discontinuing isolation.  This also applies if you get COVID-19 between a first and second vaccine dose.

An infographic answering the question of whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you currently have a positive COVID-19 infection.

Recommended Content:

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

VAX Fact Affect Fertility

Infographic
4/19/2021
VAX Fact: Does a COVID-19 vaccine affect my fertility? There is currently no evidence of fertility impacts due to COVID-19 vaccines.  If you are trying to conceive or want to get pregnant in the future, you may choose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available.

An infographic answering the question of whether the COVID-19 vaccine affects a person's fertility.

Recommended Content:

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

Appenzeller emphasizes: Get COVID-19 vaccine, no matter where

Article
4/16/2021
Military personnel explaining forensic equipment

The DHA’s Combat Support assistant director had some direct and encouraging words about the military’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout to date.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Tele-critical care will play increased COVID-19 response role in 2021

Article
4/15/2021
Infographic that says "202 tele-critical care successes will help 2021 COVID19 response"

Virtual health and particularly tele-critical care for critically ill patients assumed frontline roles in sustaining care while keeping beneficiaries and health care teams safe.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Innovation Month

Join Us!! Third COVID-19 Townhall Update with Major General George Appenzeller!

Article
4/13/2021
MHS and Military OneSource COVID-19 Townhall, with Major General (Dr.) George N. Appenzeller.  Wednesday, 14 April, 1 PM ET

Join us for the MHS' Third COVID-19 Townhall with Major General George Appenzeller

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | MHS and Military OneSource To Your Health

DOD surpasses 2 million COVID-19 vaccines worldwide

Article
4/9/2021
Military health personnel wearing a face mask and a face shield giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The DOD hit the 2 million mark for vaccinations worldwide just a month after the 1 million milestone.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Public health remains an integral part in the fight against COVID

Article
4/9/2021
Infographic featuring health personnel wearing face shields and mask with "National Public Health Week" across the top of the picture

The pandemic has highlighted a need to provide more advanced training on infection prevention and control.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Toolkit | Public Health | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

Tactical Combat Casualty Care All Service Member Master Trainer Course FAQs

Fact Sheet
4/7/2021

Additional information about the TCCC ASM CM course for potential students to review.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute | DMRTI Course Information | Tactical Combat Casualty Care Course (TCCC)

TCCC ASM CM Student Registration Form

Form/Template
4/7/2021

Students must complete this form to register for the course. All forms are emailed to the DMRTI TCCC Section for processing.

Recommended Content:

Combat Support | Defense Medical Readiness Training Institute | DMRTI Course Information | Tactical Combat Casualty Care Course (TCCC)

Children’s well-being contributes immeasurably to force readiness

Article
4/6/2021
Military personnel wearing face mask in the back of a truck

The Defense Health Agency joins in celebrating military children during Month of the Military Child, observed in April, and always.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Children's Health | Coronavirus | Month of the Military Child Toolkit | $name

MSMR Vol. 28 No. 04 - April 2021

Report
4/1/2021

A monthly publication of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division. This issue of the peer-reviewed journal contains the following articles: Disparities in COVID-19 vaccine initiation and completion among active component service members and healthcare personnel, 11 December 2020–12 March 2021; Update: Heat illness, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2020; Update: Exertional rhabdomyolysis, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2016–2020; Update: Exertional hyponatremia, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, 2005–2020; Skin and soft tissue infections, active component, U.S. Armed Forces, January 2016–September 2020.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Public Health

Telemedicine advances put to the test during pandemic

Article
4/1/2021
Uniformed service member stands behind wall of computer screens

COVID-19 has led to the need for physical distancing and has overwhelmed the capacities of health systems, compelling many to adopt telehealth solutions.

Recommended Content:

Technology | Research and Innovation | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Health Innovation Month

Lovell FHCC staff steps up to create formidable COVID-19 team

Article
3/30/2021
Military health personnel preparing to administer the COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 vaccination effort at the Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Illinois, has brought out the best in staff.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit

DOD healthcare leaders give COVID-19 update, praise DHA personnel

Article
3/30/2021
Picture of Director Army Lt. Gen. (Dr. Ronald Place providing a COVID-19 update at  the Pentagon

Dr. Terry Adirim and Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald Place provide update on COVID-19 vaccination progress and offer thanks to MHS workers for their contributions.

Recommended Content:

MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | MHS Toolkits and Branding Guidance | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 136 - 150 Page 10 of 67

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.