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Defense Health Agency Assists Turkey After Devastating Earthquake

Image of Members of the U.S. Air Force 86th Medical Group ground surgical team from Ramstein, Germany set-up a temporary surgical unit at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in response to assistance requested following an earthquake that hit the country in February. Members of the U.S. Air Force 86th Medical Group ground surgical team from Ramstein, Germany set-up a temporary surgical unit at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in response to assistance requested following an earthquake that hit the country in February.

The United States European Command and Defense Health Agency provided medical assistance, logistics, personnel, and supplies in the aftermath of an earthquake that struck the country on Feb. 6, 2023.

As soon as the government of Turkey requested help, DHA responded and prepared to deliver assistance the very next day.

“Depending on the request, DHA typically responds within hours,” said Edward King, DHA liaison officer to the USEUCOM in Stuttgart, Germany.

With the availability and location of DHA military hospitals and clinics worldwide, “the DHA will always play a role in natural disaster recovery missions and military contingency operations,” said King.

On Feb. 9, a team from USEUCOM headquarters arrived at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to determine how the U.S. military and the DHA could help the devastated region of the country.

Assistance Provided by the DHA and U.S. Military

When tasked with the mission, the U.S. armed forces provided a wide range of medical assistance using resources and programs of the DHA and USEUCOM, including:

  • The U.S. Air Force 86th Medical Group ground surgical team from Ramstein, Germany, provided on-ground and aeromedical evacuation support.
  • The Armed Services Blood Program and European Command Joint Blood Program Office provided a blood supply, and when a power outage caused some spoilage, the EUCOM JBPO rapidly provided a new fresh blood resupply.
  • DHA Medical Logistics coordinated with Defense Centers for Public Health-Portsmouth, which shipped 10 vials of rabies-immune globulin to Incirlik to assist with local food insecurities and wildlife bio-surveillance concerns.
  • An expeditionary medical support unit served as a field hospital to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. The field hospital was equipped with an emergency room, two operating rooms, and an intensive care unit along with critically needed medical supplies, 100 beds and equipment.
  • TRICARE Area Office Eurasia-Africa provided daily assessments of medical infrastructure on the ground and the viability of medical assets and capabilities.
  • Defense Health Agency Region-Europe assisted with coordinating the movement of medical personnel and logistics.
  • The DHA Medical Logistics provided analytic modeling for an expeditionary mobile hospital to support future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.<\li>

U.S. Air Force 86th MDG GST Ready to Respond

Sent as a precaution due to the extensive damage to infrastructure around the region, the U.S. Air Force 86th MDG GST landed on the ground on Feb. 13, prepared to help where needed, as local hospitals began to fill up with Turkish nationals and were unable to take U.S. military personnel as patients.

“As we arrived, Turkish hospital beds were beginning to open up and could take more of our people, “ said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Jeremy Simmons, general surgeon with the 86th MDG GST at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. “We were there if things didn’t go well and extra support was needed.”

The team set up at a military hospital at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, but were “ready to work anywhere needed,” said Simmons. “We carry rolling bags with most of our needed equipment. We can set up anywhere. We are very flexible.”

Despite seeing no patients, Simmons said the mission was important for future missions, and for training. “We were there for risk mitigation.”

“This was a good exercise for a short-notice tasking. To see how quickly we could respond,” Simmons said. “It gave us a good opportunity to see if there were any weak spots for improvement. From a readiness stance, an active stance and a deployment stance, we responded well.”

Working and assisting international partners and governments is an important part of the DHA mission and helps with future capabilities.

“Assisting with humanitarian and disaster relief missions improves DHA readiness, tests its capabilities, and prepares DHA personnel for future disaster relief, and contingency operations,” said King.

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