By Douglas H. Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton Public Affairs
BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) Kitsap Chapter, in conjunction with the community's annual Armed Forces Day events, recognized the achievements of several junior officers from local commands May 14.
Representing Naval Hospital Bremerton was Lt. James Croft, Navy Nurse Corps and critical care nurse, who was acknowledged for his accomplishments at home and on deployment. Lt. Kyle Leslie, assistant air operations officer, USS John C Stennis (CVN 74) and Ensign Eric Schon, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Northwest were also honored.
"Being able to honor deserving young officers and support them in their careers is a hallmark of MOAA since the Vietnam War-era," said retired Cmdr. Jerome Turner, Navy Chaplain Corps, and current MOAA president.
"The best part of my job is recognizing our people for the great work they accomplish, especially on deployment," said Capt. Mark E. Brouker, Naval Hospital Bremerton commanding officer. "Some of our staff and the jobs they do when they are in harm's way takes my breath away. One such is Lt. Croft."
Croft recently returned from an Individual Augmentee assignment with the 3rd Medical Expeditionary Force, Special Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Much of his time was spent in southern Afghanistan as a trauma nurse for a Shock Trauma Platoon in an isolated Marine Forward Operating Base. It was there that Croft assisted in the development of new medical tactics and procedures to bring advanced trauma care to the forward line of contact by helping to design an armored Mobile Trauma Bay.
The concept was built on the premise that the terrain made it difficult at times for Marines in the field to get a casualty out of the line of fire to the needed medical care in a timely manner. So Croft and a team worked to develop a way to bring the needed emergency medical assistance directly to the injured. Therefore, a wounded Marine would receive lifesaving care hours sooner.
"I was just a small part of the team that made the idea work. We were given a problem and we worked with what we had to work it out," Croft said. "To be honored here today by MOAA is very humbling and I'm grateful and touched."
Upon his return from Afghanistan, he was selected for the team to develop and deploy the Mobile Trauma Bay and Tactical Trauma Team Project to provide resuscitative trauma care far forward in the combat zone in an unprecedented four-month timeframe.
"I had to let him go help on the planning," Brouker said. "Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps was very proud of the project. That's high praise indeed."
Croft continued to be instrumental in the project. He assisted the development of nine prototype Mobile Trauma Bays by designing the interior for bed and equipment placement. He then researched and procured all necessary equipment to ensure battlefield readiness of the Mobile Trauma Bays once deployed. Additionally, he authored Navy Medicine-mandated Mobile Trauma Bay training curriculum for supply and equipment placement, radio operations, and emergency procedures in the combat zone.
Croft also personally trained more than 150 Marines, physicians, nurses, and hospital corpsmen deploying with the 1st and 2nd Medical Battalion, ensuring their readiness to utilize the Mobile Trauma Bays in support of the troop surge to Afghanistan.
While in Afghanistan, he also established and maintained supplies for two mobile teams and continuously trained corpsmen in patient resuscitation. He somehow found the time to enact the first ever Forward Operating Base blood program in Afghanistan that ensured a critical blood supply was readily available at all times. On multiple missions, Croft took care of patients under both direct and indirect fire.
"He is an exemplary officer," said Capt. Brenda Davis, NHB director of Nursing Services. "Lt. Croft's selfless devotion to duty and exceptional work ethic were vital to the provision of the highest calibre of care to our warfighters and their families.
"At NHB, Lt. Croft is an outstanding officer, leader, and clinician. He has exceptional clinical expertise and has had a remarkable impact in both the hospital inpatient and operational arenas. He is recognized as possessing advanced critical care knowledge and leadership abilities and was selected over more senior personnel to serve as the department head of the Intensive Care Unit."
According to Davis, Croft superbly oversaw junior nurses and corpsmen, 40 percent of whom had less than one year experience in critical care. He was also instrumental in the development, implementation and staff training for numerous clinical protocols that ensured the delivery of the highest quality care, compliance with current practice standards, and optimal outcomes through efforts to increase patient safety. "In addition to being a talented nurse, Croft is a passionate clinical educator," Davis said. "He serves as a command Advanced Adult and Pediatric Life Support instructor, program director for the Essentials of Critical Care Orientation course, and has instructed countless residents, nurses, corpsmen, and students to the fundamentals of critical care. Croft is currently involved in the development of a critical care training manual incorporating state-of-the-art simulation training to best prepare our personnel for the provision of outstanding critical care at the bedside and on the battlefield."