531st Hospital Center answers call to action, deploys

The 531st Hospital Center, based at Fort Campbell, deployed to New York in March 2020 as part of the U.S. Army’s support to the COVID-19 crisis. The 531st provides a wide array of medical capability including emergency medicine and surgical capability. 

The 531st Hospital Center, 44th Medical Brigade began the year finalizing their mission planning in support of U.S. Army Europe’s DEFENDER2020 exercise. The purpose of the exercise was to flow U.S.- based units into the European theater of operations to support multinational allies and partners, deter potential adversaries, build readiness, and strengthen the alliance.

However, the 531st HC along with the 586th Field Hospital and its subordinate detachments – 431st, 175th and 41st Medical Detachments were given a change of mission within weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak.

In March, the unit deployed in support of COVID-19 operations in New York City.

“The 531st Hospital Center and its subordinate units are trained and ready,” said Col. Brandon Pretlow, commander of the 531st HC. “We are excited about this mission. This is a unique opportunity to go and support something on this scale. I’m confident we will perform absolutely well to do whatever we need to do to take care of the citizens of the state of New York.”

The unit was responsible for the reception and integration of six Army Reserve medical task forces, individuals from Air Force and Navy units into the Joint Operations Area totaling more than 800 personnel.

The 531st HC coordinated their placement at 11 New York City Health and Hospital facilities while providing daily support to the service members dispersed throughout COVID-19 affected areas.

Soldiers of the 531st HC worked to ensure all elements were empowered to provide support across all 11 facilities. Their efforts increased patient treatment capacity and capability across NYC.

“There is no greater mission than providing treatment to the American population on U.S. soil other than deploying forward to help the warfighter in a faraway land under austere conditions,” said Maj. Aaron Griffin, 531st HC S3, Operations Officer. “In my opinion, there is no greater mission we could do to serve the nation.”

The final elements of the 531st HC returned to Fort Campbell in June.

The 586th FH was assigned to the Javits New York Medical Station and helped transform the Javits Convention Center into a “COVID-19 Care Hospital.” They built, designed processes, and provided care for 1,095 COVID-19 patients.

“I want to express how extremely proud I am of each of our Soldiers, their dedication to the mission, and the level of compassion in patient care they have shown to the people of New York City and surrounding areas,” Pretlow said, upon their return to Fort Campbell in May.

In April, the 501st Medical Company Area Support, deployed in support of COVID-19 operations. Once on ground at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, the unit was divided into treatment teams tasked to provide care to the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces working throughout the Northeast United States. The teams were deployed across New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey and provided care for more than 1,200 patients. The 501st ASMC returned to Fort Campbell in June.

The 772nd Forward Resuscitative Surgical Team returned from deployment to Afghanistan in August 2020 following successful completion of its mission to provide Role II care and split-based operations in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Unique to this combat deployment was the shift from the 772nd FRST’s primary mission of damage controlled resuscitation and surgery to a dual mission of trauma and the forward operating base area of responsibility education, prevention, surveillance, and treatment of Soldiers, civilians, local nationals, and partner forces.

The 212th Combat Operational Stress Control, supported five different missions in 2020. The unit deployed teams in support of Kosovo Force, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Operation Inherent Resolve, Operation Spartan Shield, and COVID-19 Response. The unit performed these missions while adapting the growing COSC garrison mission, supporting the 101st Airborne Division and tenant units with restoration programs, medical skills rotations, and psycho-education classes.

The 531st HC welcomed a new commander, Col. Kevin Hamilton during a change of command ceremony in July and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Ebert during a change of responsibility ceremony in December.

Among the accomplishments in 2020, the 531st HC assisted the Fort Campbell and Blanchfield Army Community Hospital COVID-19 response efforts by providing eight laboratory technicians and two Bio-Fire testing machines to help with COVID-19 testing that was instrumental in sending 1st and 2nd brigade combat teams to the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Soldiers trained trace teams to execute interviews and data analysis, following up on COVID-19 positive tests. The unit was responsible for running the isolation barracks for three months and facilitating the recovery of COVID-19 positive service members.

The 531st HC spearheaded the Expert Field Medical Badge competition on behalf of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in late October. Eighty three EFMB candidates passed the written test and competed for the badge. Following day and night land navigation and combat training Lane 1-3 testing, only 42 candidates remained. Of those, 38 passed the 12-mile ruck march in under three hours to achieve the coveted badge. Of the awardees, 14 were from 531st HC units. The event concluded with a 46% pass rate of those who passed the written exam.

As 2020 ended, the 531st HC Soldiers reflected on their many achievements throughout an unprecedented year. Across the formation, the Soldiers and officers of the 531st Hospital Center look forward to maintaining their reputation as the premier hospital center in the United States Army. Whether it is at home or overseas, the Soldiers of the 531st HC stand ready, “To Preserve Life!”

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