in training practice a nonstandard casualty evacuation.
A medical platoon leader is usually a lieutenant
who is charged with developing a combat health support (CHS)
plan for his battalion of 500 soldiers, a task that can prove
daunting for a junior officer. If you are newly assigned as
a medical platoon leader, we’d like to present three
key steps that, taken early in your assignment, will make your
job much easier.
Talk to Key Players
First, you need to know how well the platoon executes its mission. Talk to your
platoon sergeant. He should have those answers at his fingertips. Some of the
questions you want to ask him are—
• What are the platoon’s strengths and weaknesses?
• What tasks are included on the platoon’s mission-essential task
• Does the platoon have a standing operating procedure (SOP)? If so, when
was it last reviewed? Does it clearly delineate everyone’s roles and responsibilities
during convoy operations? Does the SOP provide for rehearsals of operations such
as occupying a new location, setting up a helicopter landing zone, or conducting
triage at night? When were the last rehearsals conducted? Refer often to Field
Manual 4–02.4, Medical Platoon Leader’s Handbook. It provides guidance
on planning, rehearsing, and conducting CHS and provides tactics, techniques,
and procedures for directing, controlling, and managing CHS at the medical platoon
• What is the platoon’s personnel strength? Have critical losses
the next 30, 60, or 90 days been identified by military occupational specialty
(MOS)? Are these shortages being reported on the unit status report?
• What is the status of MOS 91W transition training of your medics? [The
Army’s medical specialist (combat medic) and licensed practical nurse positions,
designated MOS 91B and 91C, respectively, have been merged to produce MOS 91W,
• Who in the platoon has a current driver’s license?
• Do all of the vehicles in the platoon have a user-level maintenance manual,
and is it used?
• Are there load plans for all vehicles, and are they current?
• Are there current packing lists for all medical equipment sets (MES)?
• How many combat lifesaver bags are on hand in the battalion? Do they
packing lists? How are they packed?
Next, contact the physician assigned to your platoon through the Professional
Officer Filler System (PROFIS) (a system that assigns personnel from table of
distribution and allowances units to table of organization and equipment units
during wartime). If you don’t know who your PROFIS physician is, ask the
battalion S–1. The physician will appreciate your being proactive and bringing
him onto the team early. It is your duty to ensure that the physician is integrated
into the platoon; understands the platoon’s mission, tactics, techniques,
and procedures and SOP; and is part of the predeployment training plan. A certified
physician can provide vital medical training, such as emergency medical technician
and basic trauma life-support training, for medics during predeployment training.
Ask the physician to inventory your MES and make sure that they are up to his
standards. The sets should reflect what the “Doc” wants to keep;
however, any medic should be able to go into the sets and find what he needs.
Work with your physician to develop a quality assessment and quality control
program to keep the medications in your MES current.
Visit the Division Surgeon’s Cell and talk to the Chief of Plans and Operations.
The chief, who is the division’s senior medical tactician, manages division
medical operations and can assist you with any medical questions you may have.
Ask the chief questions about the medical rules of engagement, air medical evacuation
procedures, or class VIII (medical materiel) operations in theater. The officers
in the Division Surgeon’s Cell have years of experience in medical operations
and can give you guidance on any medical topic. They also can point you in the
right direction to get resources to train soldiers to qualify for the Expert
Field Medical Badge or start an emergency medical technician course.
Review Supply and Maintenance Procedures
Next, you should visit the Division Medical Supply Office (DMSO) to learn the
tactical procedures for class VIII resupply. You may need medical materiel not
included in your unit assemblage listing (UAL)
for missions such as humanitarian assistance, and the DMSO can guide you on how
to stock noncombat sets and where to get the money to fund them. Ask the DMSO
how to ensure that deploying units not only have sufficient medical materiel
for the initial 48 hours but also have coordinated with the Forward Support Medical
Company for push packages.
Visit the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency (USAMMA) Web site (www.usamma.army.mil/
apps/nana_uaweb/index.htm) and download the most current UAL for all sets, kits,
and outfits (SKO). Get the most current packing lists for your MES, and inventory
them to ensure that you have current equipment and supplies. You will need a
copy of your modification table of organization and equipment (MTOE) so you can
cross-reference the line item numbers or unit identification codes on it with
the SKO on the USAMMA website. If you do not have your MTOE, you can download
a copy from the U.S Army Force Management Support Agency Web site (https://webtaads.belvoir.army.mil/usafmsa).
You will need a user name and password, which will take only about 5 minutes
After you have your current UALs, coordinate with your battalion S–4 to
use a local warehouse or gym for conducting an inventory. These buildings provide
space, security, and protection from the elements. Inventory all of your SKO,
combat lifesaver bags, aid bags, and so on using the latest USAMMA SKO packing
lists to ensure that your SKO are fully stocked. During the inventories, you
may be short many of the items on the UAL, especially if the previous platoon
leader used an outdated UAL during the last inventory. Note the equipment you
need on your shortage annex and order it. Your supply sergeant should attach
the change documents to your hand receipts and update the hand receipts as the
equipment comes in. If you need a refresher on the basics of inventory procedures,
read Major Patrick Flanders’ article, “Change of Command Inventory
101: Tips on Counting Your ‘Stuff’ Before You Sign.” It is
available on the Internet on the company command Web site (www.companycommand.com)
and in the July–August 2000 issue of Armor magazine. Use old supplies and
equipment for combat lifesaver training or combat medic training.
Next, look at the maintenance posture of your platoon’s vehicles. Get the “ground
truth” on the maintenance status of the vehicles in your platoon from your
platoon sergeant and battalion maintenance officer and get the needed parts on
order. (“Ground truth” refers to a baseline transportation or supply
plan prepared in a normal environment based on unclassified, real-world data.)
Each week, conduct a communications check with platoon headquarters, update Department
of the Army Forms 5988E (Equipment Inspection and Maintenance Worksheets) to
reflect known faults and required parts, check the status of parts on order,
and make sure that the new parts that have arrived are installed. Talk to your
platoon sergeant to find out which parts, such as cables, starters, track pads,
batteries, and heaters, cause recurring problems, and put those parts on your
battalion’s prescribed load list so they are always on hand.
Medical maintenance technicians in the DMSO can assist with the maintenance of
your medical equipment. Visit the USAMMA Web site if you have any questions on
operator-level maintenance standards for your equipment.
aid station is set up and ready to receive casualties
during training at the Joint Readiness Training Center
at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Update the Tactical SOP
The last step is to update your platoon’s tactical SOP. Remember that
a picture is worth a thousand words, so make your tactical SOP a playbook of
actions to take in different scenarios. Map out your platoon actions on contact
using flow charts, pictures, and checklists. Include in your playbook a battalion
communications plan for both ground and air medical operations, a plan for evacuating
casualties from the point of impact to the casualty collection point and the
battalion aid station, a plan to set up a helicopter landing zone during the
day or night, a mass casualty plan, and a class VIII resupply plan. These critical
functions are sometimes left out of the tactical SOP. After you get their input
and have created your tactical SOP, test soldiers on their understanding of it
and rehearse it often.
When updating the tactical SOP, be sure to consider the PROFIS physician’s
recommendations about the types of medications to stock and the quality assessment
and quality control rotation schedule for medications.
Taking charge of a medical platoon is a huge task for a junior officer. Attention
to these important first steps will go a long way toward making your job less
Captain James D. Clay is a medical observer-controller
at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
He has a bachelor’s degree in
neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh and a master’s degree
in engineering systems management from Texas A&M University. He is a graduate
of the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course and the Army Combined Arms
and Services Staff School.
Sergeant First Class Raymond F. Sanders is a medical observer-controller at
the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He has an applied
associate of science degree in general studies from Georgia Military College
and is a graduate of the Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course, the Battle
Staff Course, the Army Recruiter Course, and the Airborne School.