'Angels of Mercy,' combat medics lead the way

  • Published
  • By Col. Corinne O. Naughton
  • 96th Inpatient Operations Squadron commander
The 96th Inpatient Operations Squadron may be the newest of six squadrons at Eglin's hospital, but the care it provides has a global impact on the Air Force mission.

Traditionally, many view healthcare professionals providing hospital care as "angels of mercy." Today, our military combat medics wear their angel of mercy wings while supporting wartime missions at home and in hostile locations around the world -- they are in a special class of their own.

The talented 96th IPTS care team of 180 people includes active-duty and civilian nurses, medical technicians and administrative assistants in three flights consisting of the Intensive Care Unit, Labor and Delivery Unit and the Multiservice Unit. These three flights are also entry points for new nurses, technicians and support training programs for a diverse student population.

Medics from the ICU have frequent deployments to support air and ground combat missions. While at home, they augment military clinical hours, working in civilian intensive care settings to maintain the skills vital to wartime contingencies.

The L&D unit is the busiest flight caring for new moms and babies with a delivery rate of 70-90 children a month. Their military staff deploys to care for inpatient pediatric to adult battle injuries. At home, civilian and military medics often serve as the surrogate family in a variety of roles bridging the gap left by deployed spouses.

The MSU is the largest flight caring for medical, surgical and pediatric patients. Their staff deploys, caring for inpatients and wounded warriors traveling from the first echelon of care back to the United States. Historically, these are our youngest medics providing combat care in physically and emotionally challenging situations.

Recently, the inpatient medics had the privilege of caring for a wounded warrior from Hurlburt injured in Afghanistan -- a first for the 96 IPTS. He was stabilized and flown to Eglin for treatment and care. Senior Airman Alex Eudy was in a vehicle hit by an improvised explosive device resulting in significant trauma to both of his lower legs, ankles and feet.

From the start of his numerous surgeries, physical therapy and other treatments related to his injuries, his positive attitude and courage were remarkable. Throughout Airman Eudy's hospitalization, it was not unusual to find him encouraging other patients and visitors, as well as sharing his experience with our medics.

Airman Eudy symbolically exemplifies the critical role of our medic teams. They are the first combat medics in our military history to have voluntarily joined the Air Force knowing they would be going to war. What these "angels of mercy" do every day is humbling and yet you will always hear them say - "it is just what we do."