31 October 2014

Groundbreaking ceremony marks beginning of construction of Landstuhl hospital replacement

A group consisting of senior U.S. military leaders, German dignitaries and wounded U.S. warriors turns the first shovels of earth Oct. 24, 2014, to mark the start of construction of the Rhine Ordnance Barracks Medical Center Replacement at Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Weilerbach, Germany. The ROBMCR, a new combined U.S. military medical facility that will replace the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the Ramstein Health Clinic, is scheduled to be operational in 2022. The center will serve U.S. Service members wounded in combat, as well as the health care needs of eligible service members and their families. The facility represents the military's commitment to provide the best possible care to the U.S. forces community, during peace and war, for decades to come. Photo Credit: Sgt. Daniel Cole, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs.

From Chuck Roberts of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs at Army.mil.

RHINE ORDNANCE BARRACKS, Germany (Oct. 27, 2014) -- The last time ground was broken for a major military medical center in Europe was in 1951, when Germany and other nations were still recovering from the devastation of World War II.

About 63 years later, and eight miles away, Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr., the commanding general for U.S. Army Europe, performed the same rite of passage alongside U.S. and German dignitaries, breaking ground Friday, to signify the start of construction of the Rhine Ordnance Barracks Medical Center Replacement, or ROBMCR, which is scheduled to replace the U.S. Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, referred to as simply Landstuhl, and the Ramstein Air Base Clinic.

Although current hostilities in Afghanistan are more than 3,000 miles away, Campbell, noted that the site of the groundbreaking ceremony remains vital.

"This important location in Germany is, and has been, a strategic lifesaving place for the United States. The last 13-plus years of conflict have validated and proven the vital need for world-class military medical care in this region of the world," Campbell said before a crowd of approximately 150 U.S. and host nation guests.

Those sentiments were echoed by U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Karen Guice.

"This new hospital and clinics will continue to provide a place of healing for our warriors wounded in battle -- continuing 60 years of service and commitment into the future," said Guice.

She noted that the new medical center will be the largest and most sophisticated military system outside the United States and an "unmatched medical asset for our military."

Equally important to the facility's unmatched structural sophistication, said Guice, will be the continued selfless service by doctors, nurses, medics, technicians, administrators and support staff who will be the "heart and soul" of the new facility.

Their dedication will "turn bricks and mortar, stones and steel into a place where patients will be cared for, treated and supported; a place where care is safe. A place where quality is high. A place of pride, of service, of hope. A new beginning for an ongoing history of excellence," she said.

More than 72,000 U.S. Service members and civilian employees medically evacuated from Afghanistan and Iraq have landed the past 13 years at Ramstein Air Base, adjacent to the site of the new medical center. From there, patients are loaded onto ambulance buses for the approximately 30-minute ride to Landstuhl.

When the ROBMCR is open for business, those same patients will land at Ramstein and travel only about 15 minutes to the new medical center, without ever leaving the secure confines of a U.S. military installation.

In the meantime, world-class health care will still be offered at Landstuhl and Ramstein, where approximately 600,000 patients are treated annually. Landstuhl is the largest U.S. hospital outside the United States, and serves the needs of beneficiaries in U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command and the western U.S. Pacific Command areas of responsibility. The Ramstein Air Base Clinic is the largest Air Force clinic outside the continental United States.

However, both healthcare facilities are beyond their intended services lives. Landstuhl was built as a semi-permanent hospital in 1953, and is one of the oldest inpatient facilities in the DOD inventory. Fundamental building layouts and infrastructure cannot be modified through repair and severely limit the fielding of up-to-date medical and building technologies needed to meet current standards.

"The facilities are aging and becoming outdated, thus the need for modernizing our current capability, replacing Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and the Ramstein Clinic with a single, more cost-effective solution that will continue to provide world-class medical care for our Service members wounded in combat, along with their families and retirees stationed here in Germany and throughout Europe," said Campbell.

The $990 million ROBMCR will include nine operating rooms, 68 beds and 120 examination rooms, and will include a surge capacity that will allow it to rapidly expand to 93 beds. The hospital design complies with stringent German environmental quality requirements.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been instrumental in every step of the process of bringing the new medical center to fruition. From conceptual planning and design until construction is complete, the Corps of Engineers will continue to play a key role. One of corps' vital contributions is working hand-in-hand with its German partners.

"Many may not know that the German government is the lead agency for most aspects of the planning, design and construction which truly makes this a world-class facility through our professional and vital partnership," said Campbell. "As stated before, much hard work and great work through teamwork has gotten us to this point and those efforts will continue to be the foundation of success in the way ahead as this great facility develops."

"The earth that will be turned today and the construction of the medical center are only possible through the partnership and support of not only the German construction agencies, but also the federal, the state, and the local communities and officials representing them," said Lloyd Caldwell, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers director of Military Programs. "They are all stakeholders in this project."

The next phase for construction of the ROBMCR will be mass grading, scheduled to begin in February, and last for about one year. The center is projected to be operational in 2022.

27 October 2014

Leaving Helmand

U.S. Marines and sailors load onto a KC-130 aircraft on the Camp Bastion flightline, Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2014. The Marine Corps ended its mission in Helmand province the day prior, and all Marines, sailors and service members from the United Kingdom also withdrew from southwestern Afghanistan. The U.S. troops are assigned to Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. John Jackson.

Marines Hand Over Camp Leatherneck

Camp Leatherneck , the Corps' last remaining base in Afghanistan, was transferred to the Afghan National Army on Sunday. (Cpl. Meredith Brown / Marine Corps)

From the Marine Corps Times:

Marines in Afghanistan handed over the Corps’ last remaining base there to Afghan National Army troops Sunday, marking the official end of the service’s primary work in support of the war.

Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan’s Helmand province and the adjacent British airfield, Camp Bastion, were both transferred from International Security Assistance Force control to Afghan authority in a ceremony attended by Marine, U.K., and Afghan military leaders.

The transferr marks the close of the NATO and allied war mission in Regional Command Southwest, overseeing Helmand and Nimroz provinces. It also represent the start of a more rapid withdrawal for the Marines remaining in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, Marines and British troops remaining in Helmand are tasked with maintaining security for Leatherneck and Bastion until they return to their home stations.

Helmand province has been the location of some of the most costly battlegrounds of the war in Afghanistan, including Marjah and Sangin district. The latter region alone saw the deaths of 50 Marines and 100 British troops as they fought to weaken an insurgency fueled by a thriving drug trade from Sangin’s opium-producing poppy plants.

Over the course of the 13-year war, 458 Marines died supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, according to data from the Defense Casualty Analysis System.

We are deeply proud and grateful for every single Marine who served in Afghanistan over the past 13 years, and we honor the sacrifices of the many fallen and wounded. God bless and Semper Fi.

24 October 2014

Marine Lance Cpl. Richard P. Slocum, 2/2/85 - 10/24/04

This is Kay Slocum’s favorite picture of her son Ricky, taken the last time they saw each other before he deployed to Iraq with the 1/3 Marines out of Hawaii.

Always a "tough guy," Ricky viewed the military as a way to serve his country while gaining new skills and discipline, his father, Robert, said after his death.

"Ricky felt the Marines would make a man of him," he said. "It definitely did."

Ricky was just 19 when he was killed ten years ago today.

Marine LCpl Ricky Slocum
2/2/85 - 10/24/04

My thoughts and prayers are with Kay, Bob, and all of Ricky’s family and friends as they celebrate his life today during the annual candlelight vigil at their home. I promise to remember him always.

Ricky will be forever in my heart.

23 October 2014

They Came in Peace

This is an annual post.

Beirut, 23 October 1983

"Through these fields of destruction
Baptisms of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers-in-arms"

From Brothers-in-arms: 'They came in peace' by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola.

Originally posted 23 October, 2005.

Update 23 October 2012, from Jeremy in comments.

Update 23 October 2013, from Stars & Stripes: Beirut bombing survivor: 'The worst part for me is that nobody remembers'

22 October 2014

Ultimate Men's Health Guy: Wounded Warrior Noah Galloway

From Men's Health magazine:

The last night Noah Galloway's body was whole, he was behind the wheel of a Humvee in Iraq. His night-vision goggles didn't reveal the trip wire. "The roadside bomb was big enough to send our 10,000-pound Humvee flying through the air," he says in his Alabama drawl. "We landed wheels down in a canal."

Back in the States a disabled vet, he stopped going out. "I'd sit at home and drink and smoke and sleep. That's all I did."

But one day in 2010, he finally saw it: what was left of him.

He remembers the night vividly. He was standing at the mirror. The remnant of a man looking back at him was dirty, flabby, sallow, beer-soaked. He'd been so consumed with what he had lost that he couldn't see what he was doing to the remainder.

But there it was: the mirror moment of clarity.

Read the rest of this great story at Men's Health, and watch the interview below.

06 October 2014

American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial dedicated

A disabled veteran takes in the quotes and pictures on glass panels at the new American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated in Washington D.C. on Oct. 5, 2014. The memorial includes a black granite reflecting pool and perpetual flame burning in the middle of a star-shaped fountain. Each of the star's points represents a branch of the military. Photo: C.J. LIN/STARS AND STRIPES.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which honors disabled veterans both living and deceased from conflicts throughout the nation's history, was dedicated yesterday in Washington, DC.

The memorial was organized by philanthropist Lois Pope, former Veterans Affairs secretary Jesse Brown, and Art Wilson, who retired as CEO and national adjutant of the Disabled American Veterans organization in 2013. The group first started work on creating the memorial in the late 1990s and raised more than $80 million for its construction.

The monument features a star-shaped fountain and ceremonial flame surrounded by a grove of trees. It is located behind the U.S. Botanic Garden near the Rayburn House Office Building.

Read more at Stars and Stripes.