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Navy Medicine Sets Up New Expeditionary Command in Camp LeJeune

Sailors perform medical training exercises and evaluation at Naval Expeditionary Medical Training Institute (NEMTI) in 2020. US Navy Photo

A new Navy medical command stood up in Camp Lejeune this month as part of the service’s growing focus on expeditionary warfare.

Expeditionary Medical Facility Kilo is a field hospital that can have up to 150 beds meant to deploy to hostile areas in order to provide medical care, said Capt. Darryl Arfsten, who assumed command of EMF-Kilo on March 1. The command can deploy within 10 days to any place in the world, Arfsten told USNI News.

Navy Medicine, which recently released its first campaign order, is shifting toward providing care in areas that have vast distances, such as the Indo-Pacific region. For the past 20 years, due to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Navy Medicine focused on providing care for ground combat in well-understood geography.

The command has the ability to set up different types of hospitals, depending on needs. There is the larger EMF-150 and the medium-size EMF-50, which can set up a hospital with 150 or 50 beds, respectively. Those ar more static once set up, Arfsten said.

There is also the expeditionary medical unit, which is much smaller, and can be mobile, he said.

For EMF-Kilo, one of five expeditionary medical facilities, the day-to-day life of the sailors and civilians has not changed much despite the focus on being able to deploy, Arfsten said. The unit needs to be able to meet certain training requirements.

“We’re very focused on making sure they’re trained to do their jobs when they get to this location,” Arfsten said. “And that they’re medically and physically ready to do their job once they’re deployed.”

Expeditionary medicine is not new to the Navy, which used field hospitals in World War II, according to a Navy release on EMF-Kilo. The command is an example of the shift from close-quarters combat to one over more distance.

The newest command is an example of the shifting focus toward expeditionary medicine, Arfsten said.

Previously, the larger focus was on taking care of active-duty sailors, retirees and veterans in the area, he said.

In Camp Lejeune, members of EMF-Kilo have a chance to practice medical skills on sailors and civilians who come to the Navy’s medical center. It’s a trauma center, which means the staff sees car wrecks, gunshots and stab wounds, he said.

Those types of injuries allow EMF-Kilo to stay fresh on their combat medical skills.

Now that the command is set up, there can be a greater emphasis on training, said Master Chief James Abeyta, the senior enlisted leader for the command.

The sailors are able to get their reps and sets through caring for a variety of patients, Abeyta said.

“They give us either very similar injuries here that we would see downrange in a deployed environment,” he said.

The new command also participates in exercises, such as Operational Readiness Exercise, where it will simulate being deployed to an area to run a hospital facility.

There are 454 billets, with many of them medical. There are also ones for support staff, the galley, IT infrastructure and pastoral care.

Arfsten and Abeyta are focusing on establishing policies and procedures for the new command, according to the Navy release. EMF-Kilo will participate in an Operational Readiness Exercise.

In June, the command will send sailors and staff to Camp Pendleton, Calif., in order to demonstrate how they will be able to set up a hospital.