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Editorial on the Approach to Prolonged Field Care for the Special Forces Medical Sergeant: Balancing the Opportunity Cost

Fall 2020

Nicholson JA, Searor JN, Lane AD. 20(3). 117 - 119. (Editorial)


America's adversaries will contest US military superiority in the domains of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. Fundamentally, these foes seek to disrupt the dominance of American fighting forces through anti-access and area denial (A2AD) systems, such as cyber exploitation, electromagnetic jamming, air defense networks, and hypersonic capabilities. According to Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Pamphlet 525- 3-1, these A2AD capabilities create multiple layers of stand-off that inhibit the US ability to focus combat power and achieve strategic objectives in a contested, increasingly lethal, inherently complex, and challenging operational environment.1 The Department of Defense (DoD) plans to mitigate this shift in enemy strategy through the adoption of multidomain operations (MDO).1 MDO is defined as operations that converge capabilities to overcome an adversary's strengths across various domains by imposing simultaneous dilemmas that achieve operational and tactical objectives.1 Within this MDO construct, medical treatment expectations must shift accordingly as the ability to rapidly treat and evacuate patients may be constrained by enemy action. Thus, the notion of prolonged field care (PFC) may be a necessity on the future battlefield. As Special Operations Forces (SOF) continue to refine what PFC entails, it is imperative that an understanding of the incidence and type of diseases that require medical evacuation to higher levels of care be thoughtfully estimated. Armed with an understanding of the anticipated epidemiology, effective prioritization of training requirements and equipment acquisition is possible in a manner that is complementary to the overall success of the assigned mission. Furthermore, this prior planning mitigates risk, as the limitations of money and time impose significant opportunity costs in the short run should the disproportionate mix of disease states be pursued, which in turn, avoids jeopardizing Soldiers' lives over the long term.

Keywords: prolonged field care; Special Forces Medical Sergeants; evacuation; medical care

PMID: 32969015

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