A Special Forces A-Team is on patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, when it suddenly comes under attack. An Improvised Explosive Device is detonated and two Special Forces Soldiers are badly wounded. A medic rushes in through the acrid smoke and sees one Soldier with a badly injured lower torso and the other with a ruptured femoral artery. The medic applies an Abdominal Aortic Tourniquet from his Casualty Evacuation Kit to the Operator with the badly injured torso, stopping the flow of blood. The medic decides to use a Combat Ready Clamp to stop the flow of blood from the Soldier with the femoral artery wound. The medic then pulls out freeze dried plasma developed by French scientists to treat both Soldiers and saves their lives.
Two years ago the medic would not have had the Casualty Evacuation Set with the specialized tourniquets, clamps, and medical instrumentation; thus, saving the lives of the Soldiers would have been much more difficult.
The Special Operations Research, Development, and Acquisition Center and its Acquisition Rapid Response Medical Team for Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Casualty Evacuation were selected as the first-ever recipient of DOD’s newest award: the Better Buying Power Efficiency Award for fielding the Special Operations-peculiar life-saving kit in less than two years. The award was presented to Army Col. Joseph Capobianco, program executive officer for SOF warrior systems and his team on Nov. 2, by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta during a ceremony at the Pentagon.
“Success has many fathers,” said Capobianco. “We used the SOF acquisition model which streamlines the acquisition process and made sure we had inclusivity and ownership from the Special Operator, the contracting office, and the combat and material developers.”
Capability gaps were identified in Special Operations Forces battlefield trauma care assessment by Operators in the field, driving the need for a modernized, modular Casualty Evacuation Set.
The PEO Survival staff and Program Manager SOF Survival, Support, and Equipment Systems teams coordinated with each of USSOCOM’s component surgeons to create a joint service, multi-talented team to develop, test, and field the Casualty Evacuation System set, offering a multitude of pioneering capabilities to attend to casualties under a variety of conditions at the point of injury on the battlefield, often times in remote, denied access areas.
“Each of the component’s surgeons and their supporting combat medics were part of the acquisition and contracting process from the very beginning,” said Duke Dunnigan, director of operations, program executive office, SOF warrior systems. “Their medical expertise was critical to successfully complete the field evaluations of medical equipment provided as bid samples by industry.”
A strong partnership formed with our team medics and is why we were successful in fielding the Casualty Evacuation Set in record time,” said Dr. John Parson, program executive officer SOF warrior systems.
The team led the way in developing and widely fielding a comprehensive, modularly configured Casualty Evacuation set, enabling ground units to provide innovative, life-saving medical treatments at the point of injury to stabilize the casualty; and provide mobility to deliver a casualty from a remote, inaccessible area to a ground or air extraction platform for transport to a field medical hospital.
“We packaged Casualty Evacuation Set so that all of the medical supplies could be immediately accessed,” said Stephanie Elder, assistant program manager, tactical combat casualty care, SOF survival, support, and equipment systems. “The kit is modular, easy to transport, and we have received positive feedback from the Special Operators.”
The acquisition team developed a Combat Ready Clamp and an Abdominal Aortic Tourniquet, two medical devices to achieve, within the “golden hour,” life-saving hemorrhage control on groin and abdominal wounds previously considered non-treatable at the point of injury. The team also successfully navigated through intense regulatory hurdles to gain approval for the use of a French freeze dried plasma product that can be reconstituted at the point of injury and administered to prevent shock and death from hemorrhaging at the point of injury.
“We went through 1.2 million data points to score the equipment,” said Thomas Mills, program manager and lead material developer from SOF survival, support, and equipment systems. “The scoring allowed us to scientifically select the best medical equipment and we fielded 56 kits to the Special Operator by June 2012 and the fielding of kits will continue through fiscal year 2015."
The SOCOM accelerated acquisition process utilized a combined developmental and operational testing approach to compress normal acquisition cycle times. Equally as important to the accelerated acquisition process were the contributions from the contracting office.
“Our office was brought in at the very beginning of this project,” said Susan Griffin, contracting officer, procurement directorate, SORDAC. “It only took four months for us to get the project off the ground and we supported the effort to the end.”
The Casualty Evacuation set acquisition process was efficient because -affordable, off-the-shelf technology was utilized reducing a normal acquisition time from start to finish from five to two years. The use of existing technology and the speed the technology was put in the warfighter’s hands are why the team was selected for the Better Buying Power Efficiency Award.
“We leveraged an established solution to solve a capability gap,” Capobianco said. “We closed that capability gap with effective, timely, and affordable technologies. What our team did will save lives.”