If the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 135th Medical Company-Area Support was a patient, the diagnosis at this point of their Middle East deployment might read “stable, but could use some rest.”
“Things have been very hectic,” admitted Maj. Steven Schoeny, commander of the Waukesha-based company that took over the Role 2E mission at Al Asad Air Base in western Iraq in late May. Role 2E, or NATO Role 2 Enhanced, refers to a military hospital unit that provides basic secondary care and primary surgery, and stabilizes post-surgical cases for medical evacuation.
“We arrived in theater in a high-threat window and received several indirect fire attacks,” Schoeny continued. “We have done a few trauma cases and taken care of thousands of U.S. service members, coalition partner forces and contractors. We also run the COVID operations here on base.”
And that’s just at Al Asad Air Base. The 135th runs an isolation facility at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, which at one point had close to 200 COVID-19 cases and still managed to operate even with limited staffing. Other company members are in Saudi Arabia, where they support the Air Force with ambulance, emergency room and sick call services. They have provided medics to support some special operations missions, and assisted other bases in Iraq with primary care, specialized first aid, triage, resuscitation and stabilization capability. The unit recently sent a dentist to Qatar to assist with Afghan refugees there. And they have a behavioral health specialist in Kuwait supporting a combat aviation brigade.
“Wisconsin should be very proud of their accomplishments,” Schoeny said.
A typical day at Al Asad Air Base begins and ends with sick call, and typically includes training for mass casualties and joint trauma. The company may see medical emergencies during the day. Meetings with other medical assets on base are held frequently, and the 135th works closely with the base operations and sustainment unit. The unit is working to continually improve communications with members at other locations.
“Despite the challenging and ever-changing COVID environment, high threat and busy work schedules, Soldiers are maintaining good morale,” Schoeny said. “We are trying our best to get Soldiers opportunities to do something different or experience something they haven’t before, such as working with Iraqi army or air force medical teams.
“Despite the struggles, Soldiers remain committed to completing the mission.”