Doctors, nurses and medics from Fort Carson were thrown into the fight against coronavirus Tuesday with the post's largest medical unit ordered to deploy its troops to help civilians combat the disease.
The 627th Hospital Center, which oversees several medical units on post, was called up along with units in Texas and Kentucky as the federal government seeks to provide military assistance to states hard-hit by the respiratory disease. The states with identified needs include New York and Washington.
"Army health care professionals are adequately equipped with first-rate training, equipment and technology in order to deal with emergent health issues," Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in a statement. "Protecting the health of the force and the American people are our top priorities."
A timeline for when the hospital unit could depart hasn't been released, but in recent days a heightened level of activity to get it ready for deployment has been evident.
The hospital will fall under U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, which provides military assistance to civilian agencies.
The unit, which was known as the 10th Combat Support Hospital until it was renamed and redesigned in 2017, has more than 300 soldiers and within hours of deploying can establish a 148-bed full-service hospital even in the most austere conditions.
The hospitals are built to work out of customized tents, but also can take over civilian buildings.
The unit includes its own radiology and lab departments, a pharmacy and surgical teams. It also has combat engineers, logistic troops, truckers and maintenance technicians to keep the operation running.
The hospital unit has conducted regular drills on Fort Carson, setting up its tents on training areas of the post and running patients through actual surgeries during the drill. The most common cases during training include troops having vasectomies.
The unit was redesigned and re-equipped in recent years to turn it into what the Army calls a "modular" formation. Under that model, the hospital can scale its response from a 32-bed surgery center to a full 148-bed design.
Many of the troops in the hospital unit will be called up from civilian jobs. Much of the Army's medical service comes from its reserve ranks, and the Fort Carson unit includes part-time troops from around the Rockies.
Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson will remain in operation with the hospital unit deployed, and in the past has shown it has ample staffing from civilian workers to stay running when the field hospital heads out.
The exact duties of the hospital unit once it deploys haven't been outlined, but it is likely used for hospital ships recently ordered to New York City and Los Angeles. The Navy medical troops are to fill in for non-coronavirus hospital needs from heart attacks to traumatic injuries while their civilian counterparts wrestle with the virus.
"Army hospital staffs can provide routine and emergency medical support to community medical staffs, allowing them to focus their resources and efforts on detecting and treating patients believed to have been exposed to COVID-19," the Army said.
The call-up of the hospital unit comes as the Army struggles to control the coronavirus in its Colorado Springs ranks. Four coronavirus cases with Fort carson ties have been announced in recent days and on Tuesday officials at the post declared a public health emergency.
The declaration gives Fort Carson's commander, Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane, broader powers to quell the disease. The post has been closed to most visitors and those going to Fort Carson on official business are subjected to health screenings.
“We will continue to work to balance readiness with mitigating the effects and potential spread of COVID-19," McFarlane said in a Tuesday statement.