Fort Carson's 10th Combat Support Hospital made history this month, becoming the first unit in the Army to convert to a new field hospital design.
The reorganized unit, now called the 10th Field Hospital, is designed to be spread across vast battlefields, which the Army says improves flexibility and will lead to quicker treatment for wounded troops.
Having celebrated the historic moment and realigning as the 10th Field Hospital during the conversion ceremony June 16, its soldiers will spend the fall testing the medical equipment and unit in training exercises.
In April, the unit will conclude a final test of its readiness for battle and will be ready to head overseas after that.
"For the Fort Carson mountain medics of the 10th Field Hospital and me, this transition means challenge and opportunity," said Col. Mark Stevens, who is acting as the quarterback for the force design update. "It has opportunity in terms of early entry - to be the first to support an injured soldier wherever they go."
The challenge? As the guinea pigs for this design, Fort Carson soldiers are also tasked with figuring out the kinks of the design and reporting them to the Army Medical Department.
"Hopefully, the units are perfect out of the box, but there's always some rubs," said Stevens, who arrived at Fort Carson in December and was involved in force design updates like this in 2000 and 2015. "We'll make adjustments as needed and share that with the Army Medical Department."
The process by which the Fort Carson medical soldiers will assemble these units is like putting together a box of Legos, Stevens said.
"The designers give the units to us, we organize them here at Fort Carson, then we take them out to the field and then build something," Stevens said. "What we build is the highest level of health care in the field."
The earlier, combat support hospital design supported up to 248 patients. The field hospital model will be converted into five separate hospital units - a headquarters, a 32-bed field hospital and three augmentation detachments. In total, the new model will consist of 148 patient beds and 336 personnel.
Although the old design can accommodate more people, it "is not optimal" for Army forces that "require flexible support units capable of being scaled and tailored to support unified land operations," according to a Fort Carson news release.
The new design was concocted from hard-won lessons from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan
"The design is based on lessons learned from more than a decade of combat," Stevens said.
The design transition design began over a year ago while the Fort Carson troops were deployed in Kuwait. Although the soldiers were overseas, Stevens said, they began working on the conversion project as soon as they were notified of the change.
Although most of the equipment is just updated, the units do include two new pieces of equipment, a CT scanner and a microbiology lab.
For the past two weeks, 100 soldiers have worked 24 hours a day to receive 17,500 pieces of hospital unit inventory and organize them in nonmedical and medical equipment sets.
The $9 million in equipment will be used in an early test of the new hospital design.
"Although these soldiers have done a lot of work, this is just the beginning of the conversion process," Stevens said.