Today, doctors can do operations in field hospitals that were unthinkable a few years ago, such as micro vascular surgery, which allows doctors to reconnect tiny severed blood vessels and nerves. At the hospital in Balad, Iraq, where Woodruff and Vogt were treated, doctors could perform every kind of operation except organ transplants.
"Ten or 20 years ago, this would have been an automatic death sentence," Johnson said.
Additionally, soldiers or injured civilians in Iraq can be transferred to the United States for medical treatment in less than 36 hours. In Vietnam, the average time for such transport was 45 days.
After the Gulf War, military doctors decided that field hospitals were too far from the battlefield and needed to be closer, dramatically cutting transit time, which drastically increases chances of survival. In fact, if a wounded person arrives alive at Balad, his or her chances of surviving are 97 percent. Woodruff and Vogt arrived at the Balad hospital 37 minutes after the explosion.
Woodruff and Vogt are recovering in the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where doctors have treated more than 5,000 combat wounded. It is the largest American hospital outside the United States.