SG’s Message – Caring For Ourselves While We Care for Others

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Esteemed Navy Medicine Shipmates, I’m using this All Hands message to share my thoughts while events continue to unfold around the world and to bring you up to speed on what we are doing to support our fellow citizens, our trusted partners in Afghanistan and the beleaguered citizens of Haiti.

For the past two decades we have answered our Nation’s call and deployed forward to support our Sailors, Marines, and coalition partners in Afghanistan.  Many of you have served boots on the ground in this long war as Individual Augmentees, on patrol with your Marines and Sailors, and embedded with Role 2 and 3 facilities in theater.   During this 20 year period, you as members of Navy Medicine did incredible, heroic work.   Those who served on the ground and those who supported our deployed members should be deeply proud of what you accomplished.  You excelled in roles augmenting local forces and national government officials as advisors and mentors.  You kept our Marines, fellow Sailors and Coalition forces safe by being the Doc, ensuring the care and well-being of your units.  Your preventive care and steady presence was paramount and when a casualty occurred you were ready.   From the front lines a casualty had a 97% survivability rate; such success is unprecedented and highlights your incredible efforts.  As the war changed, you adapted and persevered.  What we learned in trauma care we applied in preparation for future conflict and shared with our civilian counterparts.  These lessons help save lives on the battlefield and in our local communities every day.   

As the United States departs Afghanistan, Navy Medicine professionals will continue to support our troops and assist with the medical evaluations for Afghan nationals who worked alongside us and who are now seeking asylum.  I am proud of our continued service and commitment to our warfighters and our efforts to help many of our friends start anew. 

I also understand the wide range of feelings many of us are experiencing as we leave a country we have supported for decades, as we watch events unfold, and as we inevitably contemplate the sacrifice so many have made. A strong, potentially painful emotional reaction is to be expected. None of us need experience these thoughts alone. I encourage everyone to talk with your shipmates, family, and friends about your views and how you are coping with current events.  Reach out and build on the skills we have been refining in our Enduring Conversations. If you feel that you would benefit from professional assistance in working through your emotions do not hesitate to send up a flare. Any member of the Navy Medicine family can get you the help you need… just say the word.  There is no “wrong door” in Navy Medicine. We have counselors, chaplains, and mental health professionals who can help you become more resilient and foster strength when you need it the most. One of our key strengths is the ability to care for each other. Make sure you check on those you served with and above all take care of yourself.

We are also assisting with the international relief effort to help the people of Haiti after a devastating 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck the country this past week.  On Tuesday, a Fleet Surgical Team departed aboard USS ARLINGTON (LPD 24) and we are also sending a Forward Deployable Preventive Medicine Unit (FDPMU) to provide additional relief in support of U.S. Southern Command Joint Task Force-Haiti.

Navy Medicine is also here for our fellow American citizens. This week we deployed a 23 person Medical Response Team (MRT) to Lafayette Louisiana to integrate with and supplement local hospital staff who are battling a COVID resurgence that is ravaging mainly those who remain unvaccinated.  MRTs are the next iteration of frontline COVID-relief, and a hybrid of our Acute Care Team and Rapid Rural Response Teams that proved so vital earlier in this pandemic.  We will likely send more MRTs out to help our fellow Americans in the weeks ahead. Check out this video of the welcome the team received. I think you’ll be as inspired as I was:

One team, one fight.  Thank you for what you do every day to protect our nation.

With my continued respect and admiration, SG

Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, FAOA
Surgeon General, U.S. Navy
Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

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