Operation IMPACT: An interview with the Commanding Officer of the Role 2 medical facility

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Article / April 10, 2017

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Morin has been the Commanding Officer of the coalition Role 2 medical facility since the Canadian Armed Force (CAF) took command in November 2016.  The following offers an account of the mission and his part in it.

Note: The coalition Role 2 medical facility is a military medical facility in Northern Iraq. It has resuscitation, damage control surgery, intensive care support, dental care, diagnostic imaging, and a medical lab.

Q:       How long have you been in Erbil, Iraq?

A:        As of May 2017, I will have spent seven months deployed on Operation IMPACT in Erbil, Iraq.

Q:       What is your CAF and medical background?

A:        I started my military career as a signals officer. After 10 years, I was accepted to the Military Medical Training Plan. I have been a practicing military physician since 2009, and deployed previously to Afghanistan in 2011 where I worked at a few forward operating bases and at a military medical facility in Kandahar.

Q:       What was it like serving as the commanding officer of a military medical facility in Iraq during the coalition campaign to retake Mosul?

A:        It was incredibly rewarding to lead a dedicated and professional team that always worked and trained to be ready to treat battle casualties. We knew that any battle casualties we received would come unexpectedly and unpredictably because of the nature of our role and that of the coalition nations advising and assisting the Iraqi military, and also the fact that the Iraqis had their own very robust medical evacuation and treatment facilities for wounded Iraqi soldiers.

Q:       What experience sticks out as particularly memorable to you?

A:        We took over operations about a month into the beginning of the coalition campaign to retake Mosul. The previous US forward surgical team that we took over from had not had any serious battle casualties in that time. Shortly after we took over, we received our first battle casualties, three severely-injured persons. It was particularly memorable to watch and coordinate the relatively quiet chaos and complex choreography of the medical teams confidently and expertly treating these first casualties.

Q:       What was it like to interact with coalition (international) partners?

A:        We had the great pleasure to have allied surgical teams work with us during our tour. As always, it highlighted how professionally we have more in common with our multinational medical partners than we have differences, and the differences are simply opportunities to learn from each other. As the largest and senior medical facility on a relatively large camp, and due to the Canadian reputation for being welcoming and friendly, we had daily opportunities to interact and work with the entire spectrum of coalition partners. Other than the opportunities to put our clinical care skills into practice, working with the myriad of other nations was the next most rewarding aspect of this mission.

Q:       What were the biggest challenges you faced in theatre?

A:        The biggest challenge by far was planning for our initial set-up, and the build-up of our medical materiel. Beyond this, it was a challenge to be the initial rotation having to sort out and establish the linkages and procedures to run this type of medical facility in a multinational coalition. However, that challenge was actually what made this deployment exciting and interesting.

Q:       What was it like to lead the Canadians under your command?

A:        I cannot say enough about how proud I am to have led such a professional team. The level of dedication, motivation, knowledge, skill and teamwork was such that I honestly felt that I simply had to establish a vision and direction, and then get out of the way.

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