As attacks from make-shift roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), wreaked havoc in Iraq and later in Afghanistan, Teri Glass and an Army support team have worked tirelessly to make sure that wounded American soldiers have an increased chance at surviving these too often fatal blasts.
As the acting project manager for an Army Medical Support Systems Project Management Office, Glass and her team led the development and fielding of state-of-the-art medical evacuation equipment, which has allowed Army medics to more safely and efficiently transport patients off the battlefield to hospitals, significantly increasing the survival rate of service members wounded by IEDs.
“We had to reassess how to best keep our soldiers safe, which is the number one priority,” said Glass. “We needed to figure out how we could both provide them with immediate treatment at the point of injury and also be able to get them back to the care they urgently needed within the critical first hour.”
Driven by an urgent request originally issued during conflict in Iraq, Glass and her team created a Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) kit that facilitates the rapid conversion of a wide range of non-ambulance vehicles into medical evacuation vehicles in less than one minute.
The portable equipment, which is about the size of a suitcase, fits neatly into the back of a vehicle and offers an enhanced ability to swiftly transport patients to life-saving treatment and allows for on-scene first aid care as well.
The kit includes a foldable litter complete with a restraint and lift system to help soldiers carry and hoist their wounded comrades into the vehicle. It also involves a rear-facing attendant seat so that medics can swivel around to provide immediate treatment for the patient lying in the back seat.
Last year, more than 400 CASEVAC kits were fielded in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and their use is continuously expanding. IEDs are responsible for the largest percentage of military casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Afghanistan averaging some 600 such attacks per month.
“During military operations in Iraq and now primarily Afghanistan, it became evident that there were too many instances where ambulances were not immediately available to transport soldiers wounded by IED attacks,” said Col. Russell Coleman, commander of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity (USAMMDA). “Teri and her team focused on how to transform in-use battlefield vehicles into ones that could be used in medical evacuation.”
Coleman said the medical evacuation equipment created by Glass and her team “has been widely credited by field commanders in both Iraq and Afghanistan as critical toward saving the lives of our deployed warfighters.”
Glass said she was first inspired into public service by her grandmother who worked in logistics and acquisitions at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. As a retired senior noncommissioned officer with more than 20 years of military service herself, Glass says she performs her duties with the soldiers constantly in mind.
“I can picture myself out there too, so when we get feedback from soldiers telling us we helped to save lives, there is no better feeling than knowing we’re doing our part to make a difference for them,” said Glass.
In tackling this pressing issue, Glass’ team simulated the conditions the soldiers would face in order to ensure that the equipment functioned and was ergonomically correct for the vehicles and its occupants.
The medical evacuation kits have been customized for a wide range of military vehicles, including Mine Resistant Ambush Protection vehicles, Humvees and helicopters. The team also worked on several improved ambulance variants and a modernized first-aid kit that includes emergency supplies to treat blood loss, severed limbs, collapsed lungs and other common combat injuries.
Given the evolving nature of warfare, Glass said the team continues to seek ways to upgrade the technology.
“It is an iterative process, and Teri and her team are always looking for ways to improve and expand its use and effectiveness,” said Coleman.
Along with Glass, the members of the Medical Support Systems team include Jaime Lee, James Cromartie, Mark Brown, Murray Swanson, John Cesca, Julia Hanes, Sharon Morgan and Steven Reichard.
“What the team accomplished sounds simple, but it is incredibly complicated and extremely critical,” said Coleman. “Without this equipment, many of our fine young Americans would not have survived. It is because of Teri Glass and her team that we are able to save lives.”
This medalist was the recipient of the National Security and International Affairs Medal, which was combined with the Safety and Law Enforcement Medal in 2020.