Green Beret turned entrepreneur expands field medicine operation in Anderson | Greenville Business

An emergency medicine company that traces its roots to the combat experience in Afghanistan of its founder is expanding again in Anderson County.

Ross Johnson, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, established Tactical Medical Solutions in 2003 as a small-scale maker of tourniquets for fellow members of the military. He sewed them himself during breaks at home between deployments in Afghanistan, he said.

He retired from the military in 2007, and in the 13 years since, the company has grown rapidly and diversified, much of that through acquisition of other companies, including trauma simulation company TraumaFX less than a year ago. TacMed, which is headquartered in Anderson, now sells more than 2,000 different products to military, law enforcement and field medicine personnel in 77 countries. 

Last week, the company announced it would invest $1.7 million and add 21 employees at the 66-acre TacMed site off Harris Bridge Road in Anderson, where the company also maintains a 300-meter shooting range.

“So anything related to reducing risk of death or injury — to help people deal with that stuff, that is our space,” Johnson said.

TacMed’s most recent product addition is a robot-like medical training mannequin that bleeds, breathes, moves and reacts to treatment. 

“There are sensors in the mannequins that know whether you are doing a procedure right or wrong,” Johnson said. “It will die if you do it wrong.”

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Aaron Dix, a long-time paramedic and member of the South Carolina EMS Association, said TacMed gear is a staple in his industry. TacMed, he said, competes with another Upstate company — Greer-based North American Rescue — in the sale and distribution of safety and emergency response gear. Agencies across the country and overseas, he said, carry their equipment.

“The same products that they manufacture for the military are applicable to civilian use.” Dix said. 

Johnson started his company in North Carolina, and a vocational rehab facility there still manufactures TacMed’s tourniquets — up to 5,000 a day. He said he moved to the Upstate on the advice of Staff Sgt. Tony Olaes, a fellow member Green Beret with whom he served. Olaes, who was from Walhalla, was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2004.

“We talked about where we were going to go when we retire,” Johnson said. “I ended up coming here on his recommendation.”

TacMed also has facilities in Florida, Texas and California. The company undertakes design, development, kit packing, distribution and all back-office work in Anderson.

“We could have invested anywhere, but we chose to invest here,” he said.

Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns told The Post and Courier the county benefits from companies such as TacMed, as well as medical device manufacturer Arthrex and paper products maker First Quality Tissue, that further diversify the area’s economy. Arthrex opened its $69 million facility on Clemson Boulevard a year ago, and First Quality Tissue has invested more than $1 billion since 2010.

Follow Anna B. Mitchell on Twitter at @AnnaBard2U.

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