Just south of Mosul, Iraq, is located a military base — currently a U.S. Army facility called the Logistical Support Area (LSA) — that has been alternately controlled by the U.S. military, Islamic State, Iraqi Security Forces, and even NATO, over the course of the past handful of years.  The base is currently being used to support joint Iraqi-U.S. combat operations against ISIS in Mosul, and one of the more critical elements of that support is a Role II medical facility with the mission of treating wounded Americans (and Iraqis).

A U.S. military “Role II” facility denotes a “forward resuscitative surgery facility” to treat wounded servicemen and women in the combat zone.  Think of a “M.A.S.H.” hospital from the old TV show, for lack of a better example.  It is a deployed surgical facility, in a war zone, staffed by the full spectrum of surgical staff, and usually located on a forward-deployed military base.  It is where the wounded first arrive after being injured in battle, and where they are surgically and medically stabilized before being sent on to a Role III (Bagram) facility, and beyond, to Germany and the United States.

On this particular base, the U.S. Navy’s Role II combat trauma medical facility sits at the corner of the flight line and a newly-named road, “Frank Butler Blvd.”  This past November, the road was named for retired Navy SEAL and physician, Captain Frank K. Butler, for his pioneering contributions to Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC).

CAPT (Ret.) Frank K. Butler (photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)

Butler, who served in the early 1970s in both the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and the SEAL Teams, went on to become a medical doctor in the Navy’s Medical Corps, and was one of the pioneers of what later came to be known as TCCC.  The system of procedures, battlefield interventions, treatments, and protocols that make up TCCC are credited with saving thousands of lives in the past 15-plus years of American combat.

Butler’s contribution to the development of TCCC started with a 1996 paper in a supplement to the journal Military Medicine, entitled “Tactical Combat Casualty Care in Special Operations.”  That 1996 article did as much as any other single piece of medical literature to nudge the military medical community forward in modernizing combat casualty care.  The paper was co-authored by Army Lt. Col. John Haymann, and Navy Ensign E. George Butler (brother of Frank), also both medical doctors.

Frank Butler’s contributions to TCCC have continued unabated over the course of the 20 years since the publication of the 1996 paper.  He served as the command surgeon of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), the first Navy doctor to do so.  He also served as the Biomedical Research Director for Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC), the parent command of the Navy SEALs.  Additionally, he is currently the chairman of the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC), which advises the Secretary of Defense on battlefield medical issues.

In 2006, Butler was the first recipient of, and the namesake for, the Frank K. Butler Award for Outstanding Contributions to TCCC.  The award continues to be bestowed each year upon those who make significant contributions to TCCC.

(Photo courtesy of Frank K. Butler)

The physician who spearheaded the effort to name the LSA road in honor of Butler, Navy Captain Thomas Craig, MD, who is currently serving at the Role II medical facility on Frank Butler Blvd, credited the road’s namesake with playing an integral role in saving numerous American lives.  Per Craig, “TCCC has bought [injured American servicemen and women] the time to survive from the POI [point of injury] to get to a higher level of care.”  That higher level of care is the Role II medical facility at which Craig serves.