Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “field medicine”

Textbooks of Military Medicine

Textbooks of Military Medicine – http://www.cs.amedd.army.mil/borden/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How can lack of sleep contribute to a friendly fire incident?
  • How long can the average person go without sleep and still be effective?
  • How can a prosthetic leg be set up to allow someone to bicycle?
  • How do you decontaminate someone exposed to chemical warfare agents?
  • How does the military measure eye trauma?
  • Where can I get detailed information about decompression sickness?


To get to the textbooks, you’ll need to click on one of the Textbooks of Military Medicine links, which will take you to http://www.cs.amedd.army.mil/borden/Portlet.aspx?id=82200b57-a7a4-4160-bb51-4a086dd6ccce.

This page links to the full text of the textbook series in reverse chronological order by publishing date. To help you focus on topics, here is my effort to group them by topic:



Environmental Aspects


Nuclear/Chemical/Biological Warfare

Physical Injury

Preventive Medicine


Each book is presented as a web page with PDF files for chapters and/or sections. If this format is uncomfortable for you, these books ought to be available through your library, at least through interlibrary loan. Some of the books are available for purchase, others are out of print.

Be warned that some of the volumes have disturbing photographs, as one might expect from medical textbooks.

If you are a regular writer of war stories, I would highly recommend keeping all of these volumes bookmarked or buying as many of the physical volumes as possible.

Office of Medical History (Army)

Office of Medical History (Army) – http://history.amedd.army.mil

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What were some preventative measures taken by the US Army in the American Revolution?
  • When were US soldiers first vaccinated for smallpox?
  • What was considered typical care during the Civil War?
  • What were World War I base camp hospitals like?


This site is divided into a number of sections, but the most helpful will be:

Books and Documents – materials from Revolutionary times to the the Iraq War. Some representative titles are:

  • The Evolution of Preventive Medicine in the United States Army, 1607-1939
  • Medical Men in the American Revolution, 1775-1783 by Louis C. Duncun
  • Thesis: A Study of the Medical Support to the Union and Confederate Armies During the Battle of Chickamauga: Lessons and Implications for Today’s U.S. Army Medical Department Leaders by David A. Rubenstein
  • The U.S. Army Medical Department in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906
  • Women in the Army Medical Department in World War II
  • Battle Casualties in Korea: Studies of the Surgical Research Team, Volume II, Tools for Resuscitation
  • In Their Own Words: The 498th Air Ambulance Company in Iraq, 2003

Historical Art Work – Captioned images and photographs from WWI through the Iraq War. The Office of Medical History discourages the use of this imagery for commercial or partisan publications, but does not disclose their authority for prohibiting these uses.

Medal of Honor recipients – Short citations of medical personnel awarded the Medal of Honor.

AMEDD Unit Patches and Lineage – Patches and organization histories from Army Medical units.

As you might gather from the title of this resource, it will be most helpful in determining what level of field medicine is available to your military characters in a given period of time.

Marine Corps FMST Student Manual – Field Medical Service Technician

Marine Corps FMST Student Manual – Field Medical Service Technician

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How do I treat heel spurs?
  • What is a Needle Thoracentesis and why would I want to perform one?
  • What are the symptoms of radiation exposure?
  • What are the symptoms of various snake bites (envenomation)?
  • What are the risk factors for combat stress?


This manual is divided into the following sections:

  • Block 1 (Concerning basic knowledge of military structure and basic first aid.)
  • Block 2 (Mostly about treating various kinds of injuries.)
  • Block 3 (Concerning diagnosing and treating chemical, biological and radiological warfare casualities.)
  • Block 4 (Triage, urban warfare and casuality evacuation)
  • Block 5 (Combat skills)

Representative manual chapters include: Perform Care of the Feet, Perform Emergency Cricothyroidotomy, Manage Abdominal Injuries, Manage Chemical Agent Casualties, Recognize Combat Stress Disorders and IED.

Marine Corps CREST Student Manual – Chaplain & Religious Program Specialist

Marine Corps MCECST Student Manual – Chaplain & Religious Program Specialist


Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How do I diagnose nerve agent poisoning?
  • How do I administer a nerve agent antidote?
  • What are the symptoms of blister agent poisoning?


Medical training manual for chaplains and other religious program specialists. The manual is divided into the following sections:

  • ANNEX A – USMC Orientation
  • ANNEX B – Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (Not provided online. An administrative overview of this program can be found at http://www.marines.mil/Portals/59/Publications/MCO%201500.54A.pdf
  • ANNEX C – Combat Life Saver
  • ANNEX D – Ministry in Combat
  • ANNEX E – USMC Common Combat Skills
  • ANNEX G – Rifle Familiarization

The manual includes chapters on Pastoral Care in a Mass Casualty Situation, Treat Chemical Agent Casualties, M16/ M4 Service Rifle Familiarization and Control Hemorrhage .

Aside from providing basic medical information useful in battlefield stories, the skills described here could easily be incorporated into stories of priests and ministers with surprising skill sets in civilian life. Kind of like Shepherd Book in the Firefly television series.

Marine Corps Combat Lifesaver Course Student Handout

Marine Corps Combat Lifesaver Course Student Handout – http://www.tecom.marines.mil/Portals/131/Docs/cls%20student.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • How do I treat a sucking chest wound?
  • How can I distinguish arterial hemorrhage from venous hemorrhage?
  • How do I distinguish between second and third degree burns?
  • What criteria do I use to triage casualties?
  • In a combat triage situation, what care should be given to someone triaged as “expectant”?


This 137 page PDF file is divided into the following sections:

  • Tactical Combat Casualty Care/CLS Overview
  • Identify Medical Fundamentals
  • Manage Hemorrhage
  • Maintain Casualty Airway
  • Manage Penetrating Chest Injuries
  • Manage Hemorrhagic Shock
  • Manage Burn Casualties
  • Perform Splinting Techniques
  • Administer Battlefield Medications
  • Perform Casualty Movement
  • Perform Combat Lifesaver Triage
  • Perform Combat Lifesaver Care
  • Glossary
  • Appendix A: Combat Life Saver (CLS) Bag – Illustrated listing of bag contents along with possible uses of each item.
  • Appendix B: Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) – Illustrated listing of first aid kit contents along with possible uses of each items.

Detailed instructions for treating various injuries are given. In some cases there are also photos of injuries that some people may find disturbing.

Complex PTSD (Veterans Affairs)

Complex PTSD – https://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/ptsd-overview/complex-ptsd.asp

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What types of trauma are associated with Complex PTSD?
  • What does Complex PTSD do to one’s self perception?


This is a simply a factsheet from the National PTSD center. I’m including it here because it provides information on a form of PTSD not usually dealt with in literature or in films. From the website:

Clinicians and researchers have found that the current PTSD diagnosis often does not capture the severe psychological harm that occurs with such prolonged, repeated trauma. For example, ordinary, healthy people who experience chronic trauma can experience changes in their self-concept and the way they adapt to stressful events. Dr. Judith Herman of Harvard University suggests that a new diagnosis, Complex PTSD, is needed to describe the symptoms of long-term trauma (1). Another name sometimes used to describe this cluster of symptoms is: Disorders of Extreme Stress Not Otherwise Specified (DESNOS)(2).

This page includes examples of the situations that appear to contribute to Complex PTSD and a listing of symptoms. There is also a reading list for more information.

Coast Guard Office of Health Services

Coast Guard Office of Health Services – http://www.dcms.uscg.mil/Our-Organization/Assistant-Commandant-for-Human-Resources-CG-1/Health-Safety-and-Work-Life-CG-11/Office-of-Health-Services-CG-112/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Is a lack of testicles on a man a disqualification for military service?
  • Can a hermaphrodite join the Coast Guard?
  • What mood disorders can disqualify someone for the Coast Guard?
  • What special precautions does the Coast Guard take for medicating pilots?
  • What are some of the technically legal recreational drugs banned for Coast Guard members?


This office serves as the organization that serves active duty servicemembers. Of the various sections on the site, you’ll find “Medical Publications and Directives” and “Operational Medicine and Medical Readiness (CG-1121)” the most helpful in your stories.

Medical Publications and Directives – If you have Coast Guard characters who are either sick, dead or medical personnel, take some time to study the Medical Manual whose table of contents takes up most of the real estate on the publications page. It is divided into the following sections:

  • Organization and Personnel
  • Health Care and Facilities
  • Physical Standards and Examinations
  • Health Records and Forms
  • Deaths and Psychiatric Conditions
  • Medical Readiness / Deployment Health
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Fiscal and Supply Management
  • Health Services Technician Assigned to Independent Duty
  • Pharmacy Operations and Drug Control
  • Health Care Procurement
  • Occupational Medical Surveillance and Evaluation Program
  • Quality Improvement
  • Medical Information System (MIS) Program

The manual is mostly administrative, but can be valuable in determining what happens to a given Coast Guard character with a given condition. Or who gets told what in case of psychiatric or substance abuse problems.
Once you’ve looked over the main manual, check out the links on the right hand side. They link to a mix of medical and administrative type publications including:

  • Cutter Heat Stress Program (CG)
  • Aeromedical Evacuation, A Guide for Health Care Providers (Joint Pub)
  • Using the Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Specimen Repository to Identify Human Remains
  • Antimotion Sickness Medications
  • Coast Guard Weight and Body Fat Standards Program Manual
  • Physical Disability Evaluation System
  • Coast Guard Food Service Manual

Operational Medicine and Medical Readiness (CG-1121) – This office is response for several programs including aviation medicine, medical training and preventive medicine. Documents relating to these programs can be found on these pages, including the Aviation Medical Manual for the Coast Guard.


Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Physical Therapy Guide (2010)

Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Physical Therapy Guide (2010) – https://web.archive.org/web/20101217144152/http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/prr/PT_BCT_Guide.pdf

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What sorts of supplies should a BCT physical therapist have with him in the field?
  • What’s the surprising source of most Army injuries requiring physical therapy?
  • What factors are involved in deciding where to send a BCT physical therapist?
  • What is a Y Balance Screen and when should it be performed?


This is a 54 page guide whose purpose, according to the introduction, “a. Establishes policies for physical therapists assigned to Brigade Combat Teams and b. Defines physical therapy roles, responsibilities and services within the BCT.”

The guide offered statistics on injuries requiring physical therapy that surprised me:

In a deployed setting, musculoskeletal non-battle injuries account for 87% of all injuries. The rate of non-combat related musculoskeletal injuries are estimated to occur 6.5-7 times more frequently than combat related injuries. Over 75% of all medical evacuations from the Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) theater of operations were due to non-combat musculoskeletal injuries associated with back, knee, foot/ankle, shoulder, hand/wrist, and neck pain. The typical Soldier medically evacuated from the OIF/OEF Theater was a 29 year old Soldier in need of additional musculoskeletal care, resulting in a negative impact on operational capabilities.5 The primary focus of physical therapy services in the brigade combat team is to enhance unit readiness and physical performance through injury prevention, human performance optimization and timely rehabilitation.

The guide’s appendices provide examples of tests such as the “functional movement screen test” that are used to determine the extent of injury.

The guide appears to have been removed from the Army Medicine website, probably around the time the Publications section itself went away. But it lives on at the Internet Archive and elsewhere on the web.

Army Medicine

Army Medicine – http://armymedicine.mil/pages/home.aspx

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is the Army doing to curb smoking?
  • How does the Army handle altitude acclimatization and illness management?
  • What measures does the Army take against Malaria?


“Bringing value …Inspiring Trust” – The Army Medicine site is the official website for the Army Medical department.

Most of the site will be of interest, but I think the best things for writers are in the News & Information section (videos and reports are under “public affairs”:

  • Mercury—Army Medicine’s Newspaper
  • Videos – Videos aimed at soldiers on various health issues.
  • Reports – Selected full text reports including pain management findings and investigation of possible epidemic of homicides at an Army base.
  • Publications – Links to technical bulletins. (This section seems to have been removed from the site since I first annotated Army Medicine. Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can view a 2012 copy.

The publications section has an interesting lesson for writers and other researchers – Don’t take everything on web pages at face value. The Publications page says in part:

Textbook of Military Medicine (series) – Military medical personnel may contact the Borden Institute at (202) 782-4329, DSN 662-4329, or FAX (202) 782-7555 to obtain copies of these publications. The public may purchase this series from the Government Printing Office (GPO); GPO contact information is shown in the next paragraph.

This is accurate, as far as it goes. But I thought the series would make a great resource for this book and so I went to my favorite search engine and used “Textbook of Military Medicine.” The first hit was from the Borden Institute and led to a series introduction. Then I noticed “published volumes” in the page’s left hand column. Clicking on that led to PDF copies of the entire series. Why didn’t Army Medicine let us know this series was available electronically? I don’t know. But what I do know and what you should also know is that if you come across an interesting title that a page implies is paper only, it’s worth it to try finding an electronic copy somewhere else. If you prefer paper but can only find PDFs, it’s worth it to go to WorldCat (http://www.worldcat.org) to see if you can get a paper copy from your library.

Air Force Medical Service

Air Force Medical Service – http://www.afms.af.mil/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What is a day in the life of an Air Force Dentist like?
  • What areas does the Air Force to be part of family practice?
  • Where can I find an Air Force Medical Facility?


“Trusted Care Anywhere” is the motto of the Air Force Medical Service and this is its primary website.

Of the various sections of the Air Force Medical Service, the following may be of the most interest to writers:

  • Organizations – Links to Air Force hospitals and other AF medical facilities.
  • Library – Has short summaries of key Air Force Medical history and links to civilian health resources. Also list terms of current and past Air Force Surgeon Generals.
  • Art – Two pages worth of Air Force Medical Service Logos
  • Careers – A link to the health care section of Air Force Careers. Great for sketching out the education and training backgrounds of your Air Force Characters.

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