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April 10, 1991

Military Medical Equipment, Techniques, Often Require Years of Preparation

JAMA. 1991;265(14):1791-1797. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460140015002

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MILITARY medical planners of the US Air Force, Army, and Navy unofficially share a motto with the Boy Scouts of America: Be Prepared.

The point, which has been reemphasized during the Desert Shield/Storm operation, is that it takes time to develop medical equipment and techniques that may be needed in a hurry when a situation such as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait occurs. An example is the temperature-controlled, transportable, standardized (among the services), modular, contingency hospital known as DEPMEDS, or Deployable Medical System, which the services used so effectively for Persian Gulf medical support (JAMA. 1991;265:833).

DEPMEDS' history can be traced at least to the late 1970s, when a US Navy rear admiral, Al Wilson, MD, now retired, spearheaded the concept. James A. Zimble, MD, the vice admiral who is surgeon general of the US Navy today, recalls that it took until the mid-1980s to design and bring DEPMEDS into being.