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British Army Airborne Medics support earthquake relief in Turkey

British Army Airborne medics have arrived in Turkey and are treating their first patients as part of the UK’s response to the devastating earthquake that hit the region.

16 Medical Regiment, bolstered by personnel from the RAF’s Tactical Medical Wing, deployed at short notice to set up the medical treatment facility in Turkoglu, close to the earthquake’s epicentre.

Staffed by more than 70 military clinicians, it provides a surgical capability with two intensive care beds, an emergency department, low dependency ward, two GP-led primary healthcare teams, and a field mental health nurse.

Amid freezing temperatures, the facility was declared ready to receive its first patients on Tuesday 14 February just over 12 hours after the troops arrived in country. It is located alongside two emergency medical teams - one Turkish and one British, which is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The three facilities are working together at the site of a community hospital that is unable to operate due to earthquake damage.

Personnel and supplies took off from RAF Brize Norton on Monday 13 February, linking in with other 16 Medical Regiment troops who flew to Turkey from Cyprus, where they had been on exercise.

To have the skills and be able to come out and help other people facing such a terrible situation is very rewarding. Pharmacy technician Sgt Brown

Lieutenant Colonel Burn, Commanding Officer of 16 Medical Regiment, said: “Arriving in Turkey, it is hard to comprehend the scale of devastation and human suffering caused by the earthquake. Working with the Turkish authorities, the FCDO, and military and non-governmental organisations from across the world, we are here to provide lifesaving treatment and support to affected communities.”

Pharmacy technician Sergeant Brown said: “As a mother, watching news of the earthquake on TV and thinking of how my own family would deal with something similar has been heart breaking. To have the skills and be able to come out and help other people facing such a terrible situation is very rewarding.

“We’re expecting to treat a lot of patients with a wide range of issues, but we’ll take it day-by-day and do all we can to help.”

Colchester-based 16 Medical Regiment’s core role is to provide medical support to 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army's global response force, and it is trained and equipped to deploy at short notice by parachute, helicopter, or air landing.

Lt Col Burn said “We are the natural choice for this mission because our role within airborne forces is defined by our readiness. We are always packed and ready to go anywhere in the world with the flexible mindset and skills to do whatever is asked of us.”

The UK’s response to the earthquake is led by the FCDO, with the military contribution commanded by Joint Force Headquarters. A specialist team held at high readiness to provide expertise in operational delivery, logistics and communications arrived in Turkey the day after the earthquake to work with the British Embassy in Ankara.

Humanitarian aid, including tents and thousands of thermal blankets, has been delivered by the RAF. A Critical Care Air Support Team able to move critically ill patients by air has deployed in a C130 Hercules.