Medical service on the frontline

Ararat military unit is one of the biggest units of Armenia which stands out with its significance. This unit protects the gates of Yerevan – the direction to the capital. Being the biggest unit it has also the biggest army-wide medical clinic. The medical clinic of the unit was built in 2010. It is equipped with appropriate estate, apparatus, medicine, as well as high-qualified staff. The head of the military service of Ararat unit, Captain of medical service Tigran Aslanyan tells us about the events implemented in the unit and the soldiers’ health condition.

_How is the work of preserving soldiers’ health organized in the unit?

_Together with the head of the medical service of the unit, three doctors of medical clinic, the dentist, the head of the chemists’, the nurse, the sanitary-driver with an appropriate sanitarian car and 5 nurses attached to 5 battalions implement medical work. In shooting units we have 12 sanitarian instructors, more than 20 medical servants, in total. They are different in nature and are from different areas but they have joint round one idea, implement a common work and have created a common family – a group which cares only about the preservation of the health of our soldiers. And in the result of the joint and properly organized work our medical service was recognized as the best unit in the fourth army corps.

_What difficulties do you usually face and what are they conditioned by?


_Organizing the medical service in Ararat is rather difficult because of climatic conditions. In summer it is rather hot, dry, with limited quantity of water and the risk of spread of intestinal infections is big. Winter, on the contrary, is rather cold, windy, which increases the risk of respiratory diseases. Besides, in military bases particularly those located near lakes where a great number of mosquitoes breed, the risk of malaria outbreak is very big. In addition, the nearby factories have negative impact on the environment. Taking the above-mentioned risk factors into consideration the supervision of soldiers’ health in our unit is quite intensive and active.  We can even boast that during the last 2 years we were able to avoid serious outbreaks and epidemics. All the measures are taken in the direction of boosting the martial capability of the troops as any epidemic outbreak and a great number of sick soldiers can become a serious problem for the organization of protection in a unit which carries out a military relay.

_What preventive steps are taken by you?

_First of all, I would like to mention the careful attitude of medical staff towards the soldiers. All the soldiers, who turn to us, are treated with care. We listen to their complaints, regardless of whether he is physically sick. Secondly, early detection of the disease and the isolation of sick and potential sick soldiers are very important. As for preventive measures, vitaminization (soldiers receive vitamins) is implemented twice a year in the army. Great attention is paid to physical tempering. Currently, the problems of medical service have increased because of one more reason. At present, the boys born in 1995-1996 are being recruited 60 percent of which have several health problems, including mental and neurological diseases.  There are cases when a short while after being recruited the soldiers are considered unfit for further service and are demobilized. It happens very often. It is, of course, a disturbing fact and makes our work difficult. Here, individual approaches and the cooperation with subdivision commanders are highlighted. Commanders possess more information about their soldiers in the result of everyday communication with them, so they can alarm about their health problems earlier.

_Is the protection of sanitarian-hygienic conditions in the unit on a proper level?

_In the area of the unit and military bases epidemic and sanitarian-hygienic measures are periodically taken. The measures are different, for instance, in order to prevent the spread of malaria outbreak the military bases are periodically processed by specialists. The quality of water is under constant supervision. Every month the water undergoes bacteriological investigation, and once in 6 months it undergoes chemical investigation. Food and food employees undergo examination, as well. The last Saturday of each month is a sanitarian day. That day all the measures of medical service are directed to the implementation of sanitarian-hygienic activities. The storages, laundries, the personal hygiene of the staff are examined. Special attention is paid to the knowledge and application of the rules of personal hygiene. The struggle against smoking is also important. Last year we had a quite big event with historical review on big screens. We provided the soldiers with information on the negative impact of smoking on organs, as well as the experience and research of different countries. There were even soldiers who gave up smoking.

_How important are the studies on the first aid in the unit?

_Not only the soldiers but also the whole staff is involved in the studies of military-medical readiness. As a head of medical service I teach platoon commanders. They learn, make their own plan-complexes and represent the material to the staff under them. In the subdivisions where there are nurses, the studies with sanitarian instructors are held by these nurses. We have also days of security studies which are held like competitions – the soldiers of different subdivisions perform an act of first aid in an appropriate period.


Nurses implementing medical service in the units find themselves in extreme and dangerous situations more often than any other employee of medical service. They spend most of time of their service at military bases where they have to provide the soldiers with firearm injuries with medical assistance and organize their transfer to the military clinic or hospital. The head of the medical clinic of the second battalion of Ararat unit, Officer Hakob Ayvazyan was awarded a medal <<Vazgen Sargsyan>> for the courage he had performed at one of such incidents.


_Do you remember the incident?

_I was on the nearest line when the head of the rear troops called and told that there was a wounded soldier with a firearm injury on his head. I got there immediately and saw the wounded. I provided him with the first assistance and transferred him to Ararat hospital from where our wounded soldier was taken to military hospital. To tell the truth, the trauma was on such a section that the soldier’s survival seemed impossible. But he survived and his mental abilities were not affected. He can move by himself, with great difficulties, though. They say he survived due to the proper first aid provided on time. Perhaps the medal was granted just for it.


_How long have you been a nurse in the unit and what will you advise to other nurses?


_I have been a nurse for already 7 years. I have faced many such cases in this period. I advise the nurses not to get into panic in such critical situations as they are responsible not only for the wounded but also for the staff, as witnessing such an incident is already shocking. Moreover, the nurse should control himself, mobilize his strength, organize the transfer quickly, as well as calm others down with his confidence. Such is our work. We work in extreme situations to provide the wounded with the first aid.


_Isn’t it difficult to carry the responsibility?


_The responsibility is enormous but we are already used to it. I don’t conceal, it is difficult and that’s why very few people want to be a nurse. But I am fond of my job and I always prepare for the shifts at military bases with pleasure.


_And as a result, you have been awarded one more medal, haven’t you?


_Yes, First class medal for faultless service.



Special-purpose regiment of Qanaqer


The special purpose subdivisions had a long way at Artsakh war and at present they improve their professionalism. All the subversive-intelligence operations performed by our neighboring countries have been neutralized by them in recent years. The spies are the eyes and ears of the army. The work implemented by them, their names and awards are not made public because of confidentiality. But there is a sphere in special-purpose units which is completely <<deciphered>>- it is the medical service. The head of medical service of special-purpose unit of Qanaqer, Major of medical service Artur Galstyan tells us how the health of future spy is preserved.

_What measures are taken in the unit directed to the preservation of soldiers’ health?

_Every day at fixed hours defined in the working schedule of the medical clinic – from 16:00 to 18:00 ambulatory reception of soldiers is held. Any soldier with any complaint can turn to us. The cases which are not life threatening and urgent but require specialized consultation or any additional diagnostic examination (tomography, X-Ray, etc.) are registered in the appropriate register-books, medical directions are prepared and in one or two days the soldiers are sent to one of the hospitals of the Ministry of Defense. In cases requiring urgent medical interference which is impossible to carry out in the conditions of the medical clinic the soldiers are immediately transferred to the nearest hospital or medical centre regardless the date and the time. Besides, according to the schedule confirmed by the order of the unit commander, tours by officers of medical service are carried out twice a week. Parallel with the assessment of general condition of soldier, body examination is carried out, as well, aimed at revealing skin diseases and possible injuries.

_Which problems are more frequent from the viewpoint of health?

During my experience of many years acute respiratory diseases, infections and dental problems occur more often in military units. They are spread not only in our unit but also in the whole army. At present, it is stated in statistics which are formed on the base of conferences and annual reports of the heads of medical service of the units. Besides, reports on soldiers’ health are submitted to the medical department once in three months. Vericella outbreaks also occur. The spread of respiratory infections and vericella are conditioned by the fact that a lot of soldiers are localized in a close area together and the infection spreads more intensively. If an infection is discovered, the patient is immediately isolated. We have an additional building which, in case of epidemic outbreak of great volume, can serve as an isolator. All the procedures are performed there, as well, by the appointed shift.

_In which cases is it necessary to take urgent and operative steps?

_By surgical emergency instructions mainly in cases of pains in appendix and abdomen it is necessary to perform urgent activities and transfer the soldier to hospital. But such cases are comparatively rare.

_In special-purpose regiment the soldiers ought to be more combative than in other units. What special conditions are there to preserve their health?


_First of all, we focus on limitation of newly-recruited soldiers with chronic diseases. We have our superior’s permission and the entry of such soldiers to the special-purpose unit is limited. These soldiers are sent to the calmer rear service.  Besides, the supervision here is very strict. We have 5 subdivisions and a doctor is attached to each of them. They also implement an everyday supervision and they are responsible for each soldier’s health. Everything is organized in a way so as we could respond to any health problem quickly and correctly. The sanitarian-educational work is also highlighted. The soldier must be able to take care of his health and his hygiene, as well as tell about his problems on time. With that purpose, brochures on health preservation have been distributed to soldiers in every unit which are kept in their pockets together with their military identification cards.


_Is it possible to respond to any problem quickly and correctly by the existing logistics equipment of the medical clinic?


_Absolutely. The medical clinic is equipped with apparatus corresponding to the requirements of such facility – disinfecting devices, disinfection lamps. The medical clinic is also provided with appropriate medicine. The medicine and bandage materials are replenished once in three months from the central medicine base subject to the medical department. The medicine base is situated in town Abovyan. In case of additional necessity we receive medicine by the unit commander’s note.


_How important is the knowledge of first aid for the soldier of special-purpose unit?


_Studies on military medicine are held in every subdivision which are implemented according to the plan developed by the head of medical service. Considering the specifications of our unit and the tasks instructed to our soldiers, great attention is paid to those lessons. Our soldiers solve military tasks more often, they perform active operations in border areas and due to the knowledge of the first aid they help each other in extreme situations and prevent further complications.  All our subdivisions have freelance sanitarian instructors who study, pass an exam and get permission to be attached to our groups so as they could provide the first aid on pre-medical level. If the first aid is correct the wounded or the sick is more likely to recover and return to the army.


_What is the difference between the military and civil doctors?


_Firstly, the military doctor must have a military spirit and must be ready to take a weapon. Secondly, he must be more alert and experienced working especially with conscripts in order to understand the degree of seriousness of the soldier’s complaint. The civil doctor receives only patients. The conscripts turn to the doctor not only for some illness, it has its own explanation, they miss and they cannot get used to the new conditions. Soldiers may feel bad, may have heartaches because of such kind of emotional experience. In a nutshell, the military doctor must be able to differentiate, realize and give the matter a proper approach in order not to miss anything, otherwise it can be late.


Military doctors state that the military service in units is on a high level, it is equipped and being equipped with necessary logistics base, the medical service provided to soldiers gets more and more developed. And when their implementation is instructed to a woman, who gives a specific sense of responsibility and maternal warmth to the work, you are more than confident that the health of the Armenian soldier is in hopeful hands. We are talking to the head of the chemists’ of special-purpose unit of Qanaqer, Officer Gayane Shegunts.


-How did you choose the military service? Isn’t it difficult for a woman, especially, when you have a family?


_I have been serving in this unit since 2004. Before that I worked in military hospital after Muratsan as a nurse. While working in hospital I was constantly communicating with the military life in the result of which I got used to this world and loved it. I wouldn’t say the service is difficult, particularly, in alarm situations when you feel that the health of each soldier depends on you. In such cases you don’t feel any difficulty. When I think that a soldier needs a headache medicine and I am not there, my sense of responsibility increases. I think love is important in any profession. In my case, first of all it is love to the country and then to the Armenian soldier defending his country.


_Is the Armenian soldier completely provided with the medicine. What medicine is it generally necessary in the unit?


_We need mainly bandage materials, painkillers and anti-inflammatory agents, we have all of them. We also make military bags of first aid in which there is an individual bandage package, painkillers, anti-inflammatory agents and blood stopping bundles. The bags are given to the groups going to the front line and the sanitarian instructor accompanying them. The bags with necessary medicine supply are always ready to be given to the groups in case of an alarm. Nothing must be forgotten as the groups can appear in various situations, even at the rear of the enemy, so the lack of even one medicine can be fatal. Thanks God, up today nothing bad has happened to our observation groups but we keep being alert. Who knows where that bomb can be?