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WRNMMC, NCR-MD Provide Medical Support For Inauguration

02/06/2017

By Bernard S. Little

WRNMMC Public Affairs staff writer

Not all service members who supported the 58th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20 marched in its parade.

Military medical personnel and resources from throughout the National Capital Region-Medical Directorate were among those service members behind the scenes who supported the events.
Approximately 100 service members in the NCR-MD were on hand to care for troops and others who participated in inauguration events, said Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) David Eigner, a staff pediatrician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Eigner served as the NCR’s ground medical forces officer in charge for the inauguration. Army Col. Gary Unruh, health systems analyst, NCR-MD, Defense Health Agency, was the national security special event OIC for the inauguration.
“My responsibility was to coordinate the overall medical response, to pre-plan what medical assets we needed, conduct training, and ensure deployment of medical forces in support of the armed forces supporting the inauguration,” said Eigner, who volunteered for the duty about a year ago.
He added the NCR-MD sent eight medical aid station teams to the inauguration. Four medical teams came from WRNMMC, three teams from Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (Virginia), and one team from the Pentagon. The 79th Medical Wing at Joint Base Andrews also provided medical personnel to support the event.  Each team included a physician, at least one nurse, a senior enlisted leader, and two or more medics or corpsmen. There were five or six people in each medical tent, as well as three roving medic teams of two service members.
Eigner explained the roving medical teams “roved” the parade route to ensure the health of service members and others marching in the event. The medical tents were stocked with intravenous fluids, hypothermia equipment, cardiac medication, trauma supplies and sick-call medicine.
In addition to providing medical support at the inauguration parade, Eigner said medical teams were also deployed to the National Prayer Service and Armed Services Ball to provide care if needed.
Fourteen service members also provided security to protect medical assets at the parade, and nine additional service members provided logistical and other support to the medical teams, Eigner added.
He said most of the service members supporting the inauguration were volunteers. “They accomplished this mission while still doing their regular jobs,” he stressed. This required many working beyond their normal duty hours.
Eigner said medical teams began preparing for their inauguration support last summer. This preparation included training in medical rules of engagement, standing rules for the use of force, credentialing by the Secret Service, field exercises and dress rehearsals. In addition, medical staff had to learn new communication systems, as well as a new patient tracking system.
“We also had to coordinate with the Joint Task Force Headquarters-NCR, as well as a command and control element from the 1st Medical Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, which was brought in additional health-care personnel for the inauguration,” Eigner said. “There were a lot of moving parts,” he added.
“We’re proud of the way our people performed,” said the physician. “They adapted and overcame to a lot of different changes, including last minute security changes.
“Medically, we did fantastic,” he added. “We had about 16 military patients and 20 civilian patients [cared for during the inauguration], and we were ready for any contingency, which fortunately did not happen.”
He said most of the patients treated received care for dizziness and light-headedness from being in formation for extended periods.
“The weather could have been a lot worse, but we were prepared for hypothermia and other cold-weather injuries,” he added.
Military support for the presidential inauguration dates back to 1789 when Soldiers, militia and Revolutionary War veterans escorted George Washington to his first inauguration ceremony at Federal Hall in New York City.
“We’ve been participating in presidential inauguration ever since,” said Maj. Gen. Bradley A. Becker, JTF-NCR/Military District of Washington commanding general. About 5,000 military personnel participated in inauguration activities Jan. 20, according Becker.
Eigner said he volunteered to participate in the inauguration because of his interest in “the peaceful transition of power, and the military support of that. I really enjoyed working with all of the other people [involved], and I really want to thank our teams’ senior enlisted leaders, who did most of the heavy lifting. I also greatly enjoyed working with our medics in the semi-deployed environment, and I got a really good view of the parade,” he added.