U.S. Rep. David Davis, R-1st, of Johnson City, at right, and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, of Fort Worth, Texas, to Davis’ right, are shown visiting the temporary hospital in Balad, Iraq, last summer. The hospital has now been torn down, but a portion of this room will be placed in the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, through the efforts of several congressmen and the Air Force.
Source: The Greeneville SunRep. Davis, Others Saw Significance Of The Site Where Many Were Saved — And Many Died By Staff Sgt. RUTH CURFMAN 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq — Airmen from the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group and the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron here worked together to preserve a piece of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” history.
The emergency room from the former Balad AB Air Force Theater Hospital, which was a temporary tent structure, was recently dismantled and shipped to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington.
It is scheduled for exhibition because it is regarded as the place where the most American blood was spilled since the Vietnam War.
However, the history of the old hospital is important in many other ways.
Capt. Scott Miller, the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron logistics chief, said, “Back in 2004, when the Army’s Combat Support Hospital was built on the site, the tents were built on concrete slabs. The trauma bays in the emergency room were marked with tape on the floor.
“When I was here in 2006, the (emergency room’s) bays were marked with painted numbers on the concrete floor.
“Because of the operations tempo being so high, later rotations ended up gluing a piece of vinyl sheeting to the top of the concrete to make it easier to clean and keep the area more hygienic,” Captain Miller said.
After the newly-built Air Force Theater Hospital became fully operational, airmen were tasked to tear down the old hospital, which drew the attention of some congressmen.
In particular, the historical significance of the bay marked with “II,” known as Bay II, is where the most severe trauma cases brought into the hospital were treated. That area earned the recognition of being the location where the most lives were lost and saved in the Iraq theater of operations.
“When Congressman Michael Burgess, R- Texas, came to Balad (AB) and toured the old and new hospital facilities in August, he realized the importance of the old structure and requested that the Bay II floor of the trauma center be preserved for historical purposes,” Captain Miller said.
“That is when the coordination for the preservation of the hospital began.”
Members of Congress involved in the project were, U.S. Reps. David Davis, R-1st, of Johnson City, Steve King, R-Iowa, and John Carter, R-Texas.[Rep. Davis Comments [In a telephone interview Friday, Davis told The Greeneville Sun that the purpose of the trip was to see first-hand the quality of health care that American military men and women were receiving in Iraq, and secondly, to assess energy supplies and needs there. [When the delegation visited the tent hospital in Balad, it was already being closed down and dismantled, although it was still in use, Davis said. [Standing in the initial treatment area, he said, the congressmen realized “that a lot of American blood had been shed there, and to tell the truth, a lot of Iraqi blood, too. [“We just felt that the treatment room was a piece of history that we didn’t want to see destroyed when the hospital closed.” [Davis said personnel at Balad told him that, at its peak, this temporary hospital “saw and treated more trauma in a day than most American hospitals see in a year.” [It has been said that one of the few good things about war is the major advances in trauma care that seem to occur when combat casualties are treated on a mass scale. [“You can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t” in a short time at a place like Balad, said Davis, who was a respiratory therapist early in his career and continues to own and manage a health care company. [“We didn’t want to see that part of the hospital lost, so we made an effort, working with the Air Force, to maintain that, and preserve it,” the Tennessee congressman said.]
New Military Hospital
The new Air Force Theater Hospital is part of the Balad AB and Logistics Support Area Anaconda’s transformation into a medical hub for those injured in the Operation Iraqi Freedom theater.
“Over the four years that the Air Force has operated a hospital on Balad AB, we have constantly developed the infrastructure that you see today,” Captain Miller said.
“Over time, as we evolved into a more state-of-the-art medical facility, our patient mix has evolved into being more Iraqis and fewer Americans. The new hospital gives us more flexibility to accommodate these changes.”
Beginning last August, with the congressional request, plans were discussed on the issues surrounding the ability to save Bay II and as much of the old hospital as possible for an historical display.
“We were able to preserve and package up most of the artifacts, pictures, cards, wall panels, vestibule and Bay II from the old hospital,” said Lt. Col. Jeff Ullmann, the 332nd ECES commander, deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va.
One of the biggest obstacles the 332nd ECES team faced was being able to remove Bay II without damaging the protective vinyl covering and not cutting it or breaking the concrete floor, which would result in the floor no longer being historically significant.
Another challenge of the removal project was the size of the particular area.
“Successfully removing the 7 foot by 7 foot, six-inch-thick solid concrete slab, weighing more than 6,000 pounds, without an extra crack or chip shows the tremendous effort, dedication and pride our civil engineers took in preserving this piece of history,” said Maj. Scott Bryant, the 332nd ECES operations flight commander.
Lt. Col. Ullmann said, “Although there was a great sense of urgency in this project, I think it is a great testament to the professionalism of these airmen to be able to take time, from their normal duties, to step back for a moment and honor the past, while in the midst of fighting this war, carve out this piece of history, lovingly bring it back to the shop, and package it up for its flight to the museum.
He added, “You can hear the pride in their voice when they discuss the project. They know that they were instrumental in preserving such an important piece of history that will have a great impact on future generations; that’s a great feeling to have.”