Iraq Keeps U.S. Hospital in Germany Busy
Sat Oct 18, 5:13 AM ET
By MELISSA EDDY, Associated Prffess Writer
LANDSTUHL, Germany - Major combat in Iraq has been declared over for nearly six months, but there's been no letup for the staff at the U.S. military's largest overseas hospital.
With American troops under near daily attack in Iraq, workers at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center are still putting in 60-hour weeks caring for wounded and ill soldiers — as well as troops stationed in Afghanistan, the Balkans and Germany.
Since President Bush declared the major fighting in Iraq over on May 1, two-thirds of the additional staff brought in for the war remain in place, and the average of 44 new patients a day is nearly three times the peacetime level.
"I can't tell the difference between combat and post-combat," said medical director Lt. Col. Richard Jordan, looking over rows of trailers providing temporary housing for the extra 600 doctors and nurses called in to handle casualties from the war.
Perched on a wooded hill in western Germany, Landstuhl has served as the military's main care facility for Europe and the Middle East for more than half a century.
In the 1980s it treated Marines wounded in the failed attempt to rescue the U.S. Embassy hostages in Iran and troops wounded in the bombing of their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. During the first Gulf War, Landstuhl treated more than 4,000 wounded.
Hundreds of Bosnian refugees were treated there in the 1990s, as were U.S. and Kenyan casualties after the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
The hospital has treated 1,800 patients so far from the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and more than 7,100 from the Iraq mission.
Since military operations in Iraq started on March 20, 336 U.S. service members have died, according to the Department of Defense. More than 1,500 have been wounded in hostile action. The British military has reported 50 deaths; Denmark, one; and Ukraine, one.
The government says 198 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq of all causes since Bush's announcement.
Most military personnel receive initial treatment at two field hospitals in Iraq. Since major combat was declared officially over, the military has closed overflow facilities in Rota, Spain and aboard the hospital ship USS Comfort.
Air Force 1st Lt. Tina Hall, a nurse at Landstuhl, has gone out of her way in recent months to provide what she calls "the little things that make a difference" — wished-for meals of Burger King or southern fried chicken, or moving battle buddies into the same room.
"I very much appreciate that they do not mind dedicating themselves to their country," Hall said.
Such efforts were not lost on Sgt. Michael Sparks, 24, recovering from a shrapnel wound to his shoulder suffered in a mortar attack on his convoy in northern Iraq.
"The Landstuhl nurses, staff, techs — they're all awesome," he said. "When you get here, you still have bad dreams and the nurses, they come in and talk to you."
All but the most severely injured stay only about two weeks at Landstuhl before heading back to the United States. Sparks, for instance, was awaiting transfer to a military hospital close to his home in Augusta, Texas.
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