By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Soldiers with the 10th Field Hospital, 627th Hospital Center, deploy regularly. In fact, they just returned from a nine-month deployment to the U.S. Central Command region this spring. So, they are perhaps the best choice of people to test an experimental form of equipment that could one-day end up being vital to Army mobile field hospitals.
For three grueling days, Aug. 20-22, 2019,, and under the watchful eyes of evaluators, the 10th FH Soldiers carried medical-manikin litters as well as wheeled litters, X-ray machines and crash carts throughout a mobile field hospital at a Fort Carson training area in an effort to test the durability and wear of an experimental flooring material.
“This is our third test of this material,” said April Schnortz, test officer, U.S. Army Medical Department Board (USAMEDDBD). “We’re testing a waterproof, insulated protective flooring, which lays over the actual task shelter flooring of the tent (field hospital) and is designed to protect and extend the life of the task shelter flooring, but also protect against heat or cold.”
USAMEDDBD personnel traveled from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to conduct the test and evaluate its effectiveness.
HDT Global, a contractor that manufactures shelters, generators, heaters, air filtration devices, robotics and other engineered technologies currently used by U.S. and allied military units, manufactures the flooring.
“From information we’ve received, the flooring is a type of waterproof canvas,” Schnortz said. “It also has a quarter-inch layer of polyurethane foam sewn in between the canvas layers. It’s modular and versatile and made up of sections that Velcro fasten together. So, it can be used in large tents or smaller tents.”
Schnortz said it will be some time before a report is available about the test, but the Soldiers who tested it seemed encouraged by the flooring’s effectiveness.
“I think there’s major potential for the flooring,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Rebich, respiratory sergeant, 534th Medical Detachment, 10th FH. “There are some minor flaws, and we’ve provided feedback suggestions about those. I also think it would work better on a graded surface. This is our regular training area and our tents sit on existing vegetation and whatever ground imperfections may be here.”
10th FH Soldiers also believed the test material was an improvement over existing tent flooring.
“The test flooring has the potential to keep water out and provide a buffer from the elements,” Rebich said. “It seems to be sturdy and water resistant, but its also light, so it doesn’t present a burden. We would have to pack it up and put in a container and plan for the extra room, but it’s not heavy. A couple of Soldiers can move it in a couple of pieces.”
Schnortz explained that previous tests with a three-quarter inch foam variety of the flooring proved less successful.
“The material bunched more and was harder to move equipment across,” she said. “It also didn’t lay as flat, so it created tripping hazards. This thinner material seems to work better in this environment, but to my understanding, the Army is not using anything like this insulated flooring for mobile field hospitals, so this is something new and possibly more effective.”