Greensburg EMEDS returns after three years of service

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Angela Brees
  • 190th ARW Public Affairs
Pack' em in, ship' em out. That was the recent mission for eight members of the 190th Air Refueling Wing, who traveled to Greensburg, Kansas, to pack up and return home its Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS) package after nearly three years of service.

Since the May 4, 2007, tornado disaster in Greensburg that leveled the town and local hospital, the EMEDS facility, a selfcontained mobile hospital, filled a critical void for the community while a new hospital was being constructed.

"Growing up in a small town, I know how important it is to have a local medical care facility," said Lt. Col. Tim Stevens, deputy commander of the 190th Medical Group, who recently traveled with a team to Greensburg to remove the facility. "The original hospital was one of the major employers in town when it was destroyed, but they've been able to keep almost all their employees. It's been very rewarding to help them preserve their community."

Initially, the 190th estimated that the temporary facility, which consists of a series of hardened tents, would only be in place for a little over a year. But the tan, RV-sized tents withstood the fickle temperatures and howling prairie winds of the Midwest for three seasons.

"The tents are indeed worn out, with small holes and tears now, but it did the job it needed to do - well beyond what it was designed for," Stevens said. "The community is so grateful for what the medical group and wing has done for their recovery efforts."

This was the first time 190th personnel utilized an EMEDS for an in-state disaster. The staff of the Kiowa County Memorial Hospital managed the day-to-day operation of the makeshift hospital. A team of 190th medical personnel provided initial training to local staff in operating the mobile medical equipment.

"Kansas is currently the only state in the country to have a homeland security deployable EMEDS facility and when we saw the needs in Greensburg we determined this was a perfect place to use this tremendous National Guard resource," said Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, The Adjutant General, in a statement shortly after the Greensburg disaster. "While we never want something like this to happen to any community, it's gratifying to know that our Guard members were able to help people in need with the EMEDS."

Lt. Col. Mark Green, commander of the 190th Civil Engineering Squadron and the officer in charge of erecting the Greensburg EMEDS in the days after the tornado, worked closely with the community to find a suitable site for the facility. A church demolished in the tornado proved to be the most beneficial site for the temporary hospital. The church's concrete slab floor was the only remnant after all the debris had been removed.

"Based on the needs of the hospital, we made modifications that we don't use in a field environment," said Green. "We had never built an EMEDS on a concrete slab and we were able to tie into the church's existing water and sewer were able to tie into the church's existing water and sewer systems."

Green says the success of the facility provided a solid foundation of experience for future operations.

"The long-term success of the Greensburg EMEDS has provided us with credibility that has benefited us in more recent operations, including building the EMEDS earlier this
year in Haiti," said Green. "Incident commanders and medical personnel know we have extensive experience building EMEDS in disaster operations and tend to value our input more based on that experience."

After three years and hundreds of patients, it was time to close another chapter on the rebuilding efforts of Greensburg. A team of volunteers from the 190th finally packed the worn tents and gathered the aging equipment in April. The equipment is now destined for permanent retirement, but the impact to the community and 190th members remains.

"What we did was a wing effort. And, it's been a great honor to serve the Greensburg community," Stevens said. "It makes you feel really good to wear the uniform and help your fellow Kansans."