Under this page in the hierarchy are all the pages that relate to Task Force Med Eagle and the putative time frame of Spring 1998 through Fall 1998.
When I read what I had pulled over from my old website a couple of issues became immediately apparent. Starting with the preface is like dropping you in the deep end. Nowhere did I mention who I was, who we were as a group, why we were doing what we were doing much less how we felt about it. As basic journalism, it sucked. As narrative, it might read well but bore more resemblance to literary fiction where the purpose of the prose is to obfuscate and confuse while impressing your audience with your erudition; never to present a clear, concise description, No, that would be too plebeian. The fact that I placed most of the background information under the Kuwait Diary section is irrelevant – that deployment occurred several years after this particular frolic and detour. Since time travel is not an option, perhaps providing at least a modicum of background would be smart if not polite.
The starting point of this whole escaped was actually summer of 1997. I had just taken command of the lovely combination of garrison and deployable units that made up the Wuerzburg Medical Activity (one hospital, 10 outlying clinics) and the 67th Combat Support Hospital with the add of the 67th Forward Surgical Team. A unique command in Army Medical Department, much less the US Army I had both Garrison (TDA) and combat (TOE) units under my command. My chain of command went in to different directions at once practically guaranteeing my being on the receiving end of conflicting orders and directive. Leaving me the queen of my own unique vessel with parallel staffs taking potshots at each other’s lifeboats. Interesting is about as polite an understatement as I can make while maintaining honesty. Pleasing both chains of command at the same time was neither feasible or reality.
I had landed in this particular command not because I had asked for it but through a series of events that no one could have predicted. In the July 1995 I had moved from being Chief of the outlying clinics for the Heidelberg MEDDAC (Medical Activity) to the Deputy Commander of Clinical Service (DCCS, think Chief of the Medical Staff for those of you somewhat familiar with hospital structures). Several months into what was supposed to be a two year position I was notified that I would be curtailed and leaving summer 1996 for Ft Campbell and command of the 86th Combat Support Hospital. Ok, cool. I wasn’t sure my family was going to be all that thrilled but I certainly didn’t mind being told that I was the first female doc to be board selected for command and a CSH command beats MEDDAC hands down any day. Train, field exercises and more training. I could do that in a heart beat.
Then it was announced that the US would a major player in the NATO Task Force rolling into Bosnia for peace making. Notice – not peace keeping. Not a blue helmet mission this, but technically falling into the realm of combat. The 5th CORP in Germany was tagged for the Army lead and 30th Medical Brigade, as it’s supporting medical command provided medical support above the combat unit level. Wuerzburg was going to be down the staff of the 67th Combat Support Hospital plus the Forward Surgical Team. Landstuhl would lose the personnel assigned to the 212th MASH. Then there was also the 160th FST plus MEDEVAC assets, Preventive Medicine, Dental, and Veterinary Units. Wuerzburg was in the unique position of having huge gaping holes in their command structure as almost all of the leadership were actually on the combat document side of the ledger.
The above is a long and somewhat round about way of explaining how I found myself in the situation of being assigned to Wuerzburg in Dec 1995 on a few hours notice to assume command of the remaining hospital assets, the outlying clinics, 24 active duty backfill from various US Medical Command locations and a hodgepodge of reservists from at least two different locations as I remember. Oh yes, and pass a Joint Commission Hospital Inspection in May. No pressure or anything. The kicker for me was that I would have to delay taking a board selected command. At the time, the thought was the 67th would be deployed for a year. In giving up the 86th in return I would be given the 67th. Through some accounting or another I would wind up with full command credit at the same time as if I had gone to the 86th.
In retrospect, it was not exactly the brightest decision I ever made but certainly lead me in a direction both challenging and rewarding.
In simple terms, the deploying commander was headed downrange. As it turned out, they went only as far as Taszar in Hungary and spent a lot of time being bored. Everything and everyone left in Wuerzburg was my responsibility. Something I took seriously; the former commander didn’t and had no compunction about interfering with the rear detachment personnel or the hospital whenever he felt. Not exactly cooperation and a good time, but I learned valuable lessons in how to disengage when I was placed in the position of deploying commander in 1998. Chose good people for positions of responsibility, give them the authority to do their jobs and don’t interfere, micromanage or second guess. Especially from several countries distance when you aren’t in their current chain of command.
Things went sideways downrange as they so often do and I was back in Heidelberg in June of 96 to spend a year as Deputy Command Surgeon for the US Army in Europe when the commander who was supposed to have lasted a year in Taszar didn’t. Since the Task Force was still there short a commander I offered to finish out the year. Given the personalities of all those involved I instead nominated (conned) a good friend and fellow doctor into the position. This was a calculated risk on my part. I had already been what I felt was betrayed once already on this deployment by a failure to bring back my best general medical officer for a residency position which I had been promised. Many years later I was to learn that strings were pulled by one of the senior line commanders who wanted to keep the officer, never mind how it affected both the career and attitude of my doc when other much less qualified applicants were selected.
All of this is the long way around of taking you to summer of 1997 and my having to make a decision about when we were to deploy again. The choices to me were simple – April to Oct or Oct to April. Given that one involved better weather and a senior commander in theater who I highly respected I went for earlier rather than later.