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Fleet Hospitals - The Beginning

The history of Naval Fleet Hospitals can be traced back to the 1940's when they were originally fabricated out of canvas and wood.  These structures, however, were later abandoned when theater of operations shifted in late 1945.  The purpose of the Fleet Hospital back then was to provide medical and surgical care for the wounded on the islands of the Pacific during World War II.

Due to changing times, more demands have been  placed upon deployable medical assets, such as the Fleet Hospital.  As such, they have to be readily available for deployment at any time and to anywhere in the world.  They must also be easily erected, capable of being immediately operational, and assembled and disassembled in a way that is feasible to the members that staff them.  According to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED), deployable medical systems, such as the Fleet Hospital, are to be staffed with highly competent medical personnel and be equipped with the latest medical equipment for treating the wounded.

Fleet Hospital Program Concept 

In the fall of 1976, the Fleet Hospital Program was conceived.  Originally named the Civil Engineer Support Office (CESO), the program provided the design and construction of the first 30-bed Fleet Hospital prototype under the direction of the Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) while receiving technical guidance from the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED).

On 01 May 1979, the CESO was renamed to the Fleet Hospital Support Office (FHSO) to be formally established in Port Hueneme, California as an Echelon Two Command assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations.  The mission of the Fleet Hospital Support Office, however, was to remain the same, to provide medical and surgical care for the needs of all Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, and Airmen deployed.


Organizational Structure and Relocation                        

During the summer of 1981, the Fleet Hospital Support Office was relocated to Alameda, California.  One year later on 14 May 1982, the FHSO was reassigned from the Chief of Naval Material to the Naval Supply System Command.

In 1997, the Chief of Naval Operations approved the relocation of the Fleet Hospital Support Office from Naval Air Station Alameda, California, to the Norfolk Fleet Industrial Supply Center, Cheatham Annex, Williamsburg, Virginia. In April 1998, the mammoth relocation process was successfully completed as more than 100 Naval Reserve men and women from Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 5, home-ported in Tacoma, Washington, offloaded hundreds of containers, civil engineering support equipment, and military vehicles to warehouses at Cheatham Annex.

On 01 October 1999, the Fleet Hospital Support Office was officially reassigned to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED), reporting directly to the Naval Medical Logistics Command in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

On 01 August 2005, the command’s name was changed from Fleet Hospital Support Office to Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command (NEMSCOM). The new name more accurately reflects the mission of the command, which is to provide design, acquisition, assembly and development of Navy Medicine’s expeditionary medical facilities. The change also embraces Navy Medicine’s transformation from older, single-use and heavy Fleet hospital platforms to newer, modular, and expandable medical facilities that can be tailored to specific missions.

Operations and Deployments                        

During OPERATION DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM from 09 August 1991 to 15 April 1992, the Fleet Hospital Support Office was responsible for the first successful deployment of three 500-bed wartime-ready Navy Fleet Hospitals.  FH3, FH5, and FH15, treated more than 32,000 patients and provided full resusitative and emergency medical care to acutely injured personnel in Kuwait and Iraq.

From September of 1994 to September of 1999, the Fleet Hospital Support Office deployed one fleet hospital in support of OPERATION NEW HORIZON/UPHOLD DEMOCRACY in Haiti.  During the operation, over 350 military personnel from Fleet Hospital Jackonsville, Florida staffed the fleet hospital, providing medical assistance to over 20,000 U.S. troops as well as thousands of Haitian refugees in various humantarian missions.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the Fleet Hospital Support Office answered our nation's call during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM by deploying a one of a kind 36-bed Expeditionary Medical Facility to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  Still utilized today, the Expeditionary Medical Facility provides medical care to thousands of al-Qaida detainees.

From April to July 2003, in support of OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM, four Fleet Hospitals, FH3, FH5, FH8, and FH15, were deployed to provided medical assistance to allied forces as well as Iraqi civilians.  One Expeditionary Medical Facility, FH3, was activated in Kuwait a few days after the initial assault, pushing forward hundreds of miles into Iraq within the first few weeks of the operation.  A second Expeditionary Medical Facility, FH8, was erected at Naval Station Rota, Spain, and provided an additional 250-bed facility with state-of-the-art medical assistance to those in need of medical care during the operation.

In continual support of humantarian efforts overseas today, the Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command is the only facility of its kind capable of designing, acquiring, assembling, integrating, storing, shipping, and maintaining deployable medical systems utilized by the United States Navy.

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