Carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Embarked with Team to Test Future of Navy Medicine

November 1, 2023 4:48 PM
From left, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Bradley Christian, a search and rescue medical technician assigned to Navy Medicine Readiness and Training (NMRTC) Patuxent River, and Lt. Kyle Rowland, a critical care nurse assigned to NMRTC Camp Lejeune, test an integrated intensive care mobile unit during inventory in the medical department aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). US Navy Photo

When the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group enters U.S. Fifth Fleet – the first time an aircraft carrier has operated in the Middle East in two years – it will do so with a small medical team, dedicated to a new approach to Navy medicine.

The en-route care system is a two-person team comprised of a critical care nurse and a search and rescue medical technician that is meant to provide patient stabilization from one point of care to another, Capt. Jason Longwell, deputy chief of staff for plans, performance and analysis with Naval Medical Forces Atlantic, told USNI News.

The new en-route care system is Navy Medicine’s latest approach to the challenges posed by the Indo-Pacific region, where vast distances will affect the Navy’s ability to provide care for sailors and Marines. Unlike Navy Medicine’s approach to Afghanistan, where care and combat were closer together, allowing care to be delivered quickly, the shifting approach is how to be able to transport a patient over distance while providing care.

Teams like the en-route care system are being put in place to allow the continuum of care to be seamless, said Lt. Cmdr. Joshua Moore, current operations and plans at Navy Medical Forces Atlantic.

The nurse and technician act almost like a medical transport unit designed to take a critical patient from one hospital to the next. If a sailor or Marine is critically injured aboard a ship, as an example, they would first be stabilized by the medical units deployed with the ship, Longwell said. Then the en-route care system would take over to keep the patient stable while they are transported to the next point of care, whether that is a medical ship or land facility.

The team also comes with the equipment that it needs to keep the patients stable, Longwell said.

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) transiting the Strait of Gibraltar on Oct. 28, 2023. US Navy Photo

“I think that to increase survivability, we’re looking at distributed maritime operations as the strategy that we’re facing in the next potential conflict, and that we want to take care of our Sailors and Marines, embarked personnel so that we can have a team that’s qualified to deliver that capability without degrading the ability of the ship to sustain itself,” he said.

While the team is currently on USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), at the request of the aircraft carrier, a similar team will not necessarily be aboard every aircraft carrier, Longwell said. The team is designed for a variety of operations, meaning that while it can be on an aircraft carrier, it is capable of going wherever the Navy deems most appropriate.

“I think the concept for this is that it can go anywhere to support the mission,” he said. “So whether it’s ship, whether it’s in forward bases, whether it’s in support of the Marine Corps, whether it’s in other places.”

Despite being the first time being sent out, the team is fully operational, Longwell said. Still, Navy Medicine always looks for ways to improve, he said. While the team is out on deployment, Naval Medical Forces Atlantic will get data from the unit to figure out ways it can be better.
Dwight D. Eisenhower and other ships with the Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group deployed from Norfolk on Oct. 14. It was initially ordered to the Eastern Mediterranean, where it would work in tandem with the Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group.

Instead, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered it into the European Command area of response. Ike is currently in the central Mediterranean but expected to sail through the Suez Canal and chop into U.S. Fifth Fleet.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
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