Army Medical Service
The diversity of the German Army is reflected in its different branches. Each of these branches has its very own set of distinct skills and capabilities, yet they are at their strongest and most successful only when they work together. Specialised equipment is used to overcome a wide variety of challenges. Learn more about the Army Medical Service.
The Army Medical Service is a special-to-arm service of the German Army and only a small part of the Bundeswehr Medical Service. Its servicemen and women are thus counted among the combat service and command support forces. Their mission is generally identical to that of all Bundeswehr medical forces, namely to protect, maintain and restore the health of military personnel.
This applies especially to operations abroad, where particular health risks lie in wait. Military personnel who fall ill, have an accident or are wounded on operations abroad are expected to receive medical care that ultimately meets the professional standards applied in Germany. The mission of the Army Medical Service is geared to tasks in the context of international conflict prevention, crisis management, and national and collective defence, in which regard lessons learned from the various battle groups and task forces are at all times taken into account. It is with this in mind that the units of the Rapid Response Forces Division (Division Schnelle Kräfte - DSK) also have their own (organic) airborne and airmobile medical forces at their disposal for routine medical support in Germany.
The Army also has organic flight medical teams for the aeromedical support of personnel during training, exercises and operational deployments. These teams provide both aeromedical care and medical emergency response services at Army airfields.
The Army Medical Service encompasses some 550 military personnel.
Technical Command and Control Structure
The Surgeon General of the Army has technical control over the Army Medical Service. He also represents the interests of the Army vis-à-vis the Surgeon General of the Bundeswehr, and vice versa.
Organisationally, the Surgeon General of the Army is located at the German Army Headquarters and directly advises the Army leadership on medical and Army Medical Service-related matters.
Technically, all corps and division surgeons, the Senior Flight Surgeon of the Army, and the command surgeon in Army Training Command report to the Surgeon General of the Army. He has disciplinary authority over the Army Medical Service personnel.
Medical Service at Headquarters
Medical command, control and advisory elements, corps, division and brigade surgeons, as well as senior medical officers and the command surgeon are assigned, structurally speaking, at subordinate command headquarters and at division and brigade level. Their core mission is to advise the commanders on all medical service matters. These senior physicians plan, manage, coordinate and supervise activities aimed at assuring medical readiness and medical support services.
Medical Service of the Rapid Response Forces Division
Army Medical Service forces are employed primarily in the Rapid Response Forces Division. To take account of the particular conditions under which the special operations forces and specialised forces operate, the two paratroop regiments (26 and 31) of 1 Airborne Brigade, and the Special Operations Forces Command, or SOFCOM (Kommando Spezialkräfte - KSK), have organic medical forces at their disposal. This organic medical service is under the technical control of the division surgeon.
The airborne medical companies are fully jump-qualified, constituting an important and unique feature of these medical personnel.
The Special Operations Forces Command (KSK) also has its own medical clinic to take account of its particular OPSEC needs. Being the only medical clinic not part of the Bundeswehr Joint Medical Service is a significant and unique feature, assuring that Special Operations Forces Command personnel receive qualified initial medical treatment and survive for onward evacuation and subsequent medical care by forces of the Bundeswehr Joint Medical Service.
The structure of the Army is rigorously geared to the “brigade system”. The brigade is the prime manoeuvre element for being able to cover the Army’s broad task spectrum and also for ensuring the inner cohesion of the field forces.
When in routine duty mode, the mechanised divisions do not have any organic medical forces and assets apart from division and brigade surgeons along with assigned support personnel as command, control and advisory elements. But when in training, on exercises and on operational deployments, they are supported by the Bundeswehr Joint Medical Service with the necessary medical capabilities.
Medical Support in the Army
How medics provide support
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NH (NATO Helicopter)-90 multirole helicopter for air rescue
Equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology, the multirole NH 90NATO Helicopter 90 offers space for FAM (Forward Aeromedical Evacuation) - the air-assisted rescue of casualties - and the follow-on transport of two seriously wounded patients. Monitoring equipment, oxygen supply, aspiration devices, infusion treatment possibilities, a defibrillator, and apparatus for maintaining body temperature are available to the physician and his/her paramedics. In addition to this emergency medical kit, the helicopter carries a stock of medications and other medical apparatus.
Eagle IV-supported Mobile Emergency Physician Team
The fully air-conditioned and protected EAGLE IV command and utility vehicle is used for the transport of patients and for emergency medical initial care. In contrast to a civilian emergency ambulance it affords protection against ballistic threats, improvised explosive devices and mines. It is fitted-out with state-of-the-art medical equipment to provide high-quality emergency care.
It is operated by a three-man team, comprising a physician qualified in rescue medicine and two paramedics. Once the casualties have received the necessary urgent medical treatment and been stabilised, they are evacuated to a medical facility for further treatment.
Protected Specialised-Forces Vehicle
The MUNGO, in service with specialised forces, is an airportable, protected, all-terrain and multi-purpose transport vehicle. It is ideally suited for crisis response operations carried out by airborne forces. It takes only five minutes to prepare the vehicle for loading into a transport helicopter. C130 and A400M transport aircraft can carry two or even three MUNGOS including their crews. The MUNGO is also airportable by helicopter as an underslung load.
Medical Team Version of the BV 206 S Hägglunds
The Hägglunds is an articulated vehicle comprising a front and rear element. The medical team vehicle version is used in the Army Medical Service to accompany airborne infantry. Its integrated medical equipment enables the medical personnel to maintain casualties’ vital functions and make them transportable.
WIESEL 2-supported Airborne Medical Team
The WIESEL 2 is a lightly armoured command and transport vehicle. Compared with the WIESEL 1, it has a higher weight-carrying capacity and offers greater space, and comes in different versions. The medical team version provides the capability to medically treat and evacuate a maximum of one stretchered and two seated casualties. Its integrated medical equipment makes it possible to maintain casualties’ vital functions and ensure their transportability.
Ambulance-supported Mobile Emergency Physician Team
A mobile emergency physician team (MEPT) ensures initial emergency medical care and comprises a physician qualified in emergency medicine, an independent medic, and an emergency medical technician, and is the military counterpart to a mobile intensive care unit.
The vehicle is all-terrain and unarmoured and used in the Bundeswehr for different purposes.
History of the Army Medical Service
In 1956 the German Bundestag decided to include medical service officers in the Bundeswehr. This was followed by the decision to integrate medical services into the armed forces and to establish the Army Medical Service School (Sanitätstruppenschule des Heeres) in Degerndorf am Inn.
In 1957 the first Bundeswehr hospitals were built for the medical care of service members. There were also three aviation medical examination centres in Hanover and Hamburg, for instance.
On 2 September 1957, Brigadier General (MC) Theodor Joedicke was appointed the first surgeon general of the Bundeswehr’s medical and health services. From 1958 the surgeon general was the senior technical superior within the Medical Service with the right to inspect directly subordinate central medical agencies of the Bundeswehr.
Further facilities were established from 1959 onwards, including the Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine in Fürstenfeldbrück, the Naval Institute for Submarine and Diving Physiology in Kronshagen, six chemical laboratory units, three hygiene/medical examination centres, a veterinary laboratory unit in Munich, seven medical depots, 291 dispensaries, 44 dental units, and six radiography teams.
On 19 February 1975, the Federal Cabinet under Chancellor Helmut Schmidt approved the proposal by the then minister of defence, Georg Leber, to employ registered female physicians, dentists, veterinarians and pharmacists as medical officers in the Bundes. After amendments to the Legal Status of Military Personnel Act and to the Military Disciplinary Code, the first five female medical officers took up service on 1 October 1975.
In October 1977, the first state-approved Bundeswehr nursing school was opened at the Bundeswehr hospital in Giessen.
Starting in April 1979, the following facilities were established locally: 100 medical centres for the Army, 35 medical centres for the Air Force and Navy, and 64 specialist sections at 29 Bundeswehr garrisons.
July 1984 saw the restructuring of the Bundeswehr Medical Service Academy and the establishment of three institutes in Munich: the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, the Bundeswehr Institute of Radiobiology, and the Bundeswehr Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
In June 1989, the first female Medical Service officer candidates were recruited, with the option to also study human medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or pharmacy at civilian universities and already receive pay during their studies. The ceiling of around 50 such recruitments per year was lifted in 1992.
German reunification led to medical service members from the East German National People’s Army also being integrated into the Bundeswehr. The Academy for Military Medicine in Bad Saarow was repurposed in 1990 as a Bundeswehr hospital and, in 1991, became a civilian medical centre (“Klinikum Bad Saarow”).
In April 1993, the then Surgeon General of the Bundeswehr, Major General (MC) Gunter Desch, issued a “Technical Guideline for the Medical Care and Support of Bundeswehr Units Outside the Federal Republic of Germany” stipulating that the professional standards applied during deployments abroad should also correspond to those in Germany.
The Bundeswehr hospital in Detmold and the one in Osnabrück were closed down in 1993. The decommissioning of Bundeswehr hospitals in Munich and Wildbad followed in 1994, thus reducing the number of Bundeswehr hospitals to ten. It was also decided to create around 13 medical clinics offering specialty services as extramural units of the remaining Bundeswehr hospitals. In December 1995, a Centre for Cardiac Surgery opened at the Bundeswehr Central Hospital in Koblenz.
A total of 2,849 females were active in the Medical Service by 1996.
In 1997 the Bundeswehr hospital in Giessen was closed down. That same year, the Bundeswehr Medical Academy in Munich was established, superseding the Bundeswehr Medical Service Academy. The supervisory institutes were disbanded, and four institutes of the Central Institute of the Bundeswehr Medical Service were founded.
As part of the Bundeswehr reform, the Bundeswehr Joint Medical Service was created on 1 October 2000. It was formed from the then Central Medical Agencies and by largely centralising medical assets.
The only exceptions to this were small domains such as shipboard medical services in the Navy, the aviation medical service, the Army Medical Service, and the medical institutes of the Air Force and Navy which continue to be part of the respective single services organisationally.