Colchester-based Army medics, buoyed by their experience of serving on a United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan in 2017, are now readying themselves for their next challenge.
23 Medical Squadron, 16 Medical Regiment deployed to South Sudan from May until September 2017 to establish a temporary hospital at Bentiu. It provides medical care for 1,800 peacekeepers and staff of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), with a more permanent field hospital being built by the Royal Engineers to replace it.
On their return, the medics replaced their light blue UN berets with the maroon berets of 16 Air Assault Brigade to get ready to be able to deploy at short notice anywhere in the world as part of the Air Assault Task Force (AATF) – the British Army’s rapid reaction force.
Training at Rock Barracks in Woodbridge this week saw 23 Med Sqn’s personnel and lightweight and air-deployable Role 2 Basic medical treatment facility tested to the limits to confirm its readiness for global operations.
In South Sudan we were busy treating a lot of minor injury and illness cases Sgt Hannah Dransfield
Major Seb Burn, Officer Commanding 23 Med Sqn, said: “Before we take on a high readiness role in March, it is important that we test ourselves thoroughly to ensure that our clinical processes and the military wrap surrounding that is working well. Our challenge is to be able to deploy at short notice anywhere in the world to deliver lifesaving care to casualties at the level expected in an NHS hospital.
“I took command of the Squadron on their return from South Sudan and found that everyone had brought back a lot of maturity and the confidence of proven skills. We’re in a great position for whatever we’re asked to do next.”
The R2B facility tested on Exercise Pegasus Serpent includes a resuscitation suite, operating theatre, intensive care beds and a holding ward, as well as a lab, X-ray machines and primary healthcare facilities.
Emergency care nurse Sergeant Hannah Dransfield said: “In South Sudan we were busy treating a lot of minor injury and illness cases, rather than the major trauma patients we were treating in Afghanistan. We’ve trained and worked together for the last year, and shown that we’ve got the skills between us to be capable of doing whatever a future deployment might require.”
Operating department practitioner Sergeant Bruce Francis said: “South Sudan was a tough environment, with temperatures up to 50C, and we faced a lot of logistical challenges to keep a busy hospital open. Now, it’s -2C at Woodbridge and we’re going back to our basic role of developing the agility to deploy at short notice and rapidly provide medical care.
“What I’ve learnt from the last year is that I need to be adaptable and robust enough to work in any conditions and have the open-mindedness to accept whatever patient turns up at our door.”