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...

Psychiatric Medical Evaluations

Infographic
10/26/2018
Psychiatric Medical Evaluations

This study evaluated incidence of pre-deployment family problem diagnoses and psychiatric medical evacuations among a population of active component service members without a history of previous mental health diagnoses, who deployed to the U.S. Central Command Area of Responsibility for the first time between 1 January 2002 and 31 December 2014.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Infographic
10/26/2018
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

The purpose of this study was to update previous MSMR analyses of the incidence of acute Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) among U.S. active component women using a 21-year surveillance period from 1996 through 2016. A secondary objective was to report on the proportion of service women with previously diagnosed PID who were subsequently diagnosed with infertility or ectopic pregnancy.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

CVD

Infographic
10/3/2018
CVD

As of part of WOMEN’S HEALTH MONTH, we focus on the findings related to female service members. If the risk factors are recognized, these service members can take steps to modify their lifestyles or obtain appropriate medical intervention, and reduce the likelihood of significant CVD while serving in the Armed Forces, and also after leaving service.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Gynecologic Disorders

Infographic
10/3/2018
Gynecologic disorders are conditions that affect the female reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, and vulva. As part of Women’s Health Month, this report describes the incidence and burden of four commonly occur-ring gynecologic disorders (menorrhagia, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, and endometriosis) among active component service women from 2012 through 2016. This report also documents the number and percentage of women with co-occurring incident diagnoses during the surveillance period.

Gynecologic disorders are conditions that affect the female reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, vagina, and vulva. As part of Women’s Health Month, this report describes the incidence and burden of four commonly occur-ring gynecologic disorders (menorrhagia, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, and endometriosis) among active component service women from 2012 through 2016. This report also documents the number and percentage of women with co-occurring incident diagnoses during the surveillance period.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

HPV

Infographic
10/3/2018
HPV

Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S.; HPV is the second most frequently diagnosed STI in U.S. military service members. Currently, HPV vaccine is not mandatory for U.S. military service members, but the Defense Health Agency and each individual service have policies encouraging and offering HPV vaccination to service members. As part of women's health month, we examine initiation, coverage and completion rates of HPV vaccine among female service members.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

HPV

Infographic
9/24/2018
HPV

Genital human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S., and is the second most frequently diagnosed STI in U.S. military service members. Currently, HPV is not a mandatory vaccine for U.S. military service. However, it is encouraged and offered to service members.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

HIV

Infographic
9/24/2018
HIV

As part of the U.S. military’s total-force HIV screening program, civilian applicants for military service are screened for antibodies to HIV during pre-accession medical examinations. Infection with HIV is medically disqualifying for entry into U.S. military service. Since 1986, all members of the active and reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces have been periodically screened to detect newly acquired HIV infections.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Drowning

Infographic
9/24/2018
Drowning

Service members are at risk for unintentional drownings during training, occupational activities, and off-duty recreation. In the U.S., unintentional drowning ranks as the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death and accounted for an average of 3,558 deaths (non-boating related) annually between 2007 and 2016. The current analysis extends and updates the findings of the June 2015 MSMR article by summarizing counts, rates, and correlates of risk of medical encounters related to accidental drownings among U.S. military members during 2013–2017.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Norovirus

Infographic
8/27/2018
Norovirus

Beginning in 2011, the Operational Infectious Diseases (OID) laboratory at the Naval Health Research Center has undertaken routine surveillance of four U.S. military training facilities to systematically track the prevalence of acute gastroenteritis and to establish its etiologies among U.S. military recruits.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Staphylococcus

Infographic
8/27/2018
Staphylococcus

Staphylococcus: Staphylococcus aureus is a major cause of skin and soft tissue infection (SSTI). Military personnel in congregate settings (e.g., training, deployment) are at increased risk for S. aureus colonization and SSTI. For a 7-month period in 2016, an observational cohort study of S. aureus colonization and SSTI among U.S. Navy submariners was conducted.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Food Allergy

Infographic
7/25/2018
Individuals with a history of food-allergy anaphylaxis or a systemic reaction to food do not meet military accession or retention standards and require a waiver in order to serve in the military.  First-line treatment for anaphylaxis includes rapid administration of epinephrine.

Individuals with a history of food-allergy anaphylaxis or a systemic reaction to food do not meet military accession or retention standards and require a waiver in order to serve in the military. First-line treatment for anaphylaxis includes rapid administration of epinephrine.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Acute Injuries

Infographic
7/25/2018
Service members in the U.S. Armed Forces frequently engage in high levels of physical activity to perform their duties, and such activity can potentially result in training- or duty-related injury.  This report summarizes the incidence, trends, types, external causes, and dispositions of acute injuries among active component U.S. service members over a 10-year surveillance period.

Service members in the U.S. Armed Forces frequently engage in high levels of physical activity to perform their duties, and such activity can potentially result in training- or duty-related injury. This report summarizes the incidence, trends, types, external causes, and dispositions of acute injuries among active component U.S. service members over a 10-year surveillance period.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Epidemiology and Analysis | Medical Surveillance Monthly Report | Public Health

Invisible Wounds, Invisible Care

Infographic
12/8/2017
Invisible Wounds, Visible Care: A Road to Care and Recovery. 1. Seek Care: Are yo or someone you know showing symptoms of an invisible wound? Seek care early and often. Many resources are available to support you and your family. 2. Receive Care: Connect with medical and non-medical services that will assist you throughout the care process, help you build a care management team, and support your recovery. 3. Continued Care: Continue recovery while reintegrating into your unit or transitioning into civilian life.

This infographic outlines the Air Force Invisible Wounds Initiative and offers a list of resources for wounded warriors and their families.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Stimulants - Are you up to speed?

Infographic
5/19/2016
Operation Supplement Safety infographic about stimulants

Get up to speed and check out the new OPSS infographic with information on what you need to know about these dietary supplement ingredients

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Consortium for Health and Military Performance | Nutritional Fitness
<< < 1 2 3 4 > >> 
Showing results 46 - 59 Page 4 of 4

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.