THE CONTEXT OF THE MILITARY COMMITMENT
Within the context of the military operations against terrorism in northern Mali, 800 fighters and 150 combat vehicles were mobilised. They performed “rezzu” (frontal and quick raids), with the objective to recognize, detect and neutralise the terrorist armed groups (GAT). The equipment used in the rezzu was very important. It was constituted of columns of vehicles (pick-up trucks and armoured vehicles) and various weapons (14.5mm and 12.7mm machine guns; Multiple rocket launchers; AK47; RPG…). The medical support was twofold. For Chadian FATIM, it was mainly an ambulance manned by a nurse, two health aids and a logistical SUV (Sport utility vehicle) manned by an anaesthesiologist, a nurse and another two health aids (photo 1). The medical material mainly consisted of infusion sets, solutions (NaCl 0.9% and Ringer’s lactate®), bandages, tourniquets and makeshift immobilisation set ups. The team had some injectable drugs (antibiotics mainly) but no oxygen therapy. The French medical team worked from a Long Range Vehicle (LRV) with a long sanitary “chassis” (photo 1) equipped with an Initial Projection Kit (LPI) which corresponds with a set of material to support about 200 men for 2 to 7 days, depending on the intensity of the mission. Three members of staff of the Army Healthcare (SSA) made up this small team: a doctor, a nurse, and a health aid with a degree in level 2 combat rescue (SC2).
The medical care was implemented with shared medical material. The two teams worked together throughout the conditioning and the start of the Tactical Medical Chain of Evacuation (MEDEVAC). The latter was performed by French manoeuvre helicopters (MH). They moved the victims to an Advanced Operational Base (BOA). Once on site, each casualty was cared for at a medical post (with many role 1 teams) and a Vital Surgery Module (VSM).
CHRONOLOGY: THE FACTS
The operations were launched at sunrise with a force posture organised in three columns of vehicles moving quite fast (photo 2). The first element was armed by an elite unit and armoured vehicles. The first encounter started in the morning at a well-known dangerous crossroad. The fight took place in three stages (figure 1). All in all, the battleground spread out over an area of one kilometre (North/South) by three kilometres (East/West). The first casualties arrived by 11.00am at the medical units located in the middle of the force in the combat zone. In order to protect themselves and have a clear vision of the situation, the priority was to look for a secure space to settle down the “wounded nest”. After one hour of tactical reorganisation, all the casualties and the dead soldiers already gathered, were transferred to one location. The location was simply set up with only the available vehicles under the protection of
Photo 1: Chadian Ambulances and medical LRV (personal collection).
International Review of the Armed Forces Medical Services
Revue Internationale des Services de Santé des Forces Armées