We've posted quite a bit about the 173rd Airborne in Afghanistan (and Iraq). Some of the B5 authors have been privileged to meet some of the heroes from that courageous group of paratroopers. And we've mourned too many of them...
A few years ago, I was honored to be the MC for the premiere of Restrepo in Chicago and host the Q&A after the film for director Sebastion Junger. I was even more honored to meet Josh Brennan's father. It was a remarkable experience. You can see video interviews of SSG Giunta here and here - these were done before he received the Medal of Honor.
So that brings us to Elise Cooper's own review of SSG Sal Giunta's memoir for BlackFive readers.
In a way, I think the title of the book should have been "Unbreakable"...it goes along with the Rock's reputation and, of course, the bond between soldiers in combat. It's not a criticism, it's just how I view those guys:
Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta, A Medal of Honor Recipient, with Joe Layden has written a memoir, Living With Honor. This is truly a soldier’s story where he allows the American people to get a glimpse of what it is like to be in combat with those who are at first strangers, but then become a fraternity of brothers and sisters.
He was stationed with the 173rd Airborne Brigade near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the Korengal Valley, known as the “Valley of Death” for its insurgent stronghold. After being ambushed by Taliban insurgents Giunta engaged the enemy to rescue others from his unit. He administered first aid while he covered his squad leader with his own body, being struck by bullets a number of times. After realizing that his buddy, Sergeant Josh Brennan, was missing he searched for him, finding him being taken by two insurgents. He engaged them, killing one and wounding the other.
After this harrowing experience he told BlackFive.net that he does not understand why these insurgents are not held “accountable for their actions of extremism. Either we should be fully engaged and fight it properly or we should start sending people over there without guns and lets see if they feel safe.”
He wrote in the book that a soldier’s options are success or death with no margin for error and no opportunity to relax. He explained, “Decisions have to made in a split second. This will determine if you will live any longer in this world. The rules of engagement given to us are not for fighting in a combat country but seem more like what we do in America with people who are for the most part fair minded. ”
The most powerful parts of the book are the chapters about some of those who served with him. He regards those men and women as family who “came together under a common flag, the Red, White, and Blue. I wanted to give insight to the American people on who the soldier was. Our military is vast and diverse, but it is 100% united, bonded by combat.”
He also talks about his and some of his buddies’ experiences as they returned home. In one scene Sal tells how he would always tell his wife Jen that he was going to the bathroom. The reason he included this, “I wanted to show how a soldier must transition from one mindset to another. In combat everyone knows where you are at; otherwise, you might be in trouble. After returning home, it was a really strange feeling to be alone. I am very thankful that my wife is the stable part of my life.”
Living With Honor is a very candid, insightful, and riveting account of Sergeant Giunta’s experiences. It illustrates the empowering and invaluable lessons he learned about combat and life. He summarized his story, “I believe in the saying ‘the strongest medals are forged in the hottest flames and the flames of combat are insanely hot.’ We as soldiers have the strongest bond that is unbreakable.”
12/6/2012 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (AFNS) -- On
13 May 2010, an Airman First Class taught me some lessons I'll never
forget. I think of Airman 1st Class Corey Hughes almost every week. His
actions on that particular day in May remind me to focus on others
first, that heroic leaders exist among us all the time, and doing the
right thing takes courage but is worth it.
When troops on the ground in Afghanistan run into trouble, our
asymmetric advantage is our ability to bring airpower to bear quickly
and accurately. It was no different on 13 May. A patrol of soldiers ran
into an ambush in eastern Afghanistan, receiving large volumes of enemy
mortar, heavy machine gun, rocket propelled grenades and small arms
fire. My formation of two F-15E Strike Eagles was called to support the
"Troops in Contact" situation or "TIC." As we arrived on scene, there
were already American wounded.
For the aircraft overhead, our contacts on the ground are young, well
trained, and brave Airmen embedded with each Army unit; they are called
Tactical Air Control Parties (TACP). They are the node between the Army
ground commanders and the Airmen providing support overhead. They
translate the situation from the ground commander's perspective,
integrate airpower into the plan of maneuver or fires, and guide our
attacks with amazing precision. That can sound antiseptic and simple on
paper but in the thick of the battle it is 100 percent adrenaline,
noise, and concentration as bullets fly.
The fight on the ground was very violent by the time my flight arrived.
Our initial contact was with Airman 1st Class Hughes who was yelling
into the radio. He had to be loud as he keyed the mic because his voice
was drowned out by the sound of gunfire in the background. His calls
were quick and broken as he stopped to fire his own weapon in between
radio calls. At one point he said, "Stand by" and the radio went silent.
For the next few minutes we orbited overhead and waited. Where was he?
We called but no answer. Finally his voice came back. He was out of
breath and huffing into his mic, but he calmly gave us the plan to
provide a show of force and cover the ingress of helicopters to evacuate
the patrol, first the wounded and then the rest of the team. The show
of force bought them time and space and eventually all were extracted
safely from a tough situation.
After we landed and debriefed our mission, I headed to the Bagram Craig
Joint Theater Hospital. Craig Hospital is one of the advanced coalition
hospitals in Afghanistan that receives wounded from the battlefield and
stabilizes them prior to their onward movement to more medical care in
I visited regularly to talk with our medical warriors and see how the
wounded were doing. On that day I had a chance to check up on several of
the wounded from the very firefight we'd supported only hours before. I
spoke to a few of the Soldiers from that fight, told them they were
getting the best care in the world and turned to leave, when a shout of
"Sir! Sir!" made me stop. I turned to see a shirtless wounded Soldier
who was shot in the legs, calling out for my attention. He motioned me
back. His eyes reflected his urgency to tell me something. I walked
back, closed the curtain behind me, and crouched to get to his level on
"Sir, tell the TACP thanks," he urgently requested. I asked what
happened. His story explained the mystery from earlier in the day when
A1C Hughes went silent on the radio. This Soldier was moving from one
position to another during the firefight and was hit in the legs. Unable
to move, he took what cover he could. While performing his primary duty
of directing air support, Airman 1st Class Hughes noticed that this
Soldier could not move on his own, told us to "stand by", and ran toward
him. He picked the Soldier up and fireman-carried him to a covered
position. The Soldier said the one thing he would never forget was that
while he was being carried several hundred meters through deadly fire
was staring at a patch on the shoulder of his rescuer. The patch read
"TACP." The Soldier didn't know the Airman's name nor did he see him
again. He just asked that I pass along the thanks somehow.
I spent the next few days tracking the TACP down and that's when I met
Airman 1st Class Hughes and heard his story first hand. I told him when
our F-15E formation checked in we heard the shooting in the background
of every radio call. I described how we listened to his clipped calls to
us, his calm call to us to "stand by" and then how there were minutes
of silence, leaving us concerned as to what was happening. I told him we
then heard him breathlessly get back on the radio as he called for our
show of force.
"What was going on down there?" I asked. He told me how some of the
wounded were near his position and he was going back and forth, under
heavy fire, to check on them, give them water and help them out the best
he could until MEDEVAC arrived. Corey said he saw a Soldier who could
not move on his own and immediately went to pick him up and carry him to
safety. Airman 1st Class Hughes then retraced his steps through the
enemy fire to get back to his position and continue to call in our
effects. What immediately caught my attention was Airman 1st Class
Hughes' tone of voice. He clearly believed his actions weren't anything
special and others would do the same if in that situation.
I often consider the lessons Airman 1st Class Corey Hughes taught that
day. His actions inspire us to put others first, understanding there can
be a cost. His example affirms that there are brave leaders all around
us willing to step forward when it counts, despite the risks. He reminds
me that both success and courage are defined by doing what is right,
even as the bullets fly. Like the wounded Soldier, I also want to tell
the TACP, A1C Hughes, "thanks."
I know, you're saying it has to be a Marine, right?
A submarine skipper.
The alternate title could be "if you're name is Fluckey, you'd better be good". Well, Eugene Fluckey was very good and the story of his sub, the USS Barb is one for the history books. It is the only submarine that I know of that sunk a train.
He's definitely someone you should know.
Here's the story (as sent to my by a friend):
July 18, 1945 In Patience Bay, off the coast of Karafuto, Japan.
It was after 4 A.M. And Commander Fluckey rubbed his eyes as he peered over the map spread before him. It was the twelfth war patrol of the Barb, the fifth under Commander Fluckey. He should have turned the submarine's command over to another skipper after four patrols, but had managed to strike a deal with Admiral Lockwood to make a fifth trip with the men he cared for like a father.
Of course, no one suspected when he had struck that deal prior to his fourth and should have been his final war patrol, that Commander Fluckey's success would be so great he would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Betrayal - Special Air Service Soldier Jailed for having "war trophy"
Posted By Blackfive
UPDATE 11-29-12: Sgt Nightingale's sentence has been suspended. Go here for more information! Sally Nightingale brought the petition to free Danny with 106,000 signatures for the judge. Thanks to everyone for their support, thoughts, prayers, $, and time in working on behalf of the Nightingales!
UPDATE 11-28-12: Thanks to everyone for signing the petition and sending cards and letters of support to Sergeant Nightingale. I hope the petitions land on the desk of the judge tomorrow...which brings me to this point... The hearing for Sergeant Nightingale is tomorrow, Thursday, November 19th. Since tomorrow is already happening in England, your thoughts and prayers would be appreciated.
See the end of this post for a note from Sally Nightingale and sign the petition!!!
This one's for Tiny...
It is no secret that we support our friends, allies and family over in Britain. They have stood by us in the darkest of times. It's no secret that we are admirers of the SAS and the work that they do. We've focused on a few of them here over the years. Which brings us to this travesty of justice happening right now.
...In 2007, Sgt Nightingale was serving in Iraq as a member of Task Force Black, a covert counter-terrorist unit that conducted operations under orders to capture and kill members of al-Qaeda.
He also helped train members of a secret counter-terrorist force called the Apostles. At the end of the training he was presented with the Glock, which he planned to donate to his regiment as a war trophy...
But two of his mates were killed and he escorted their remains back to Britain. His quick departure left behind, not only all of his gear, but also the pistol in Iraq. The pistol was packed up in box and sent home - not opened for years. In the meantime, Sgt Nightingale served honorably and ably; however, in the 30th mile of a 200 mile trek across Brazil, he collapsed and was in a coma for 72 hours suffering memory loss. Then...
...In May, 2010, Sgt Nightingale was living in a house with another soldier close to the regiment’s headquarters when he was posted to Afghanistan at short notice.
During the tour, his housemate’s estranged wife claimed her husband had assaulted her and kept a stash of ammunition in the house. West Mercia Police raided the house and found the Glock, still in its container...
Legends in the SAS community have rallied round Sgt Nightingale including Richard Williams, Tim Collins, Andy McNab and Chris Ryan. They have sent a letter of protest to the Prime Minister David Cameron.
There's a petition you can sign to show support of Sgt Nightingale here. Yes, I don't expect the British judge to respond to a petition from a bunch of Americans and Canadians, but it might send a signal to the good sergeant and his family that A LOT of people around the world have his back.
And, to the judge in this case, as they say across the pond, "sort this out, or we'll sort you out."
38 Degrees is forwarding this email on from Sally Nightingale, the
wife of Sergeant Danny Nightingale. So far, more than 90,000 38 Degrees
members have signed the petition calling for Danny to be released (http://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/danny-nightingale). Read her message below:
I can’t thank you enough for the support you’ve shown my husband, Sergeant Danny Nightingale.
It means more than I can tell you that tens of thousands of people are
standing with us to fight for his freedom. From the bottom of my heart -
Tomorrow, I’ll be taking the petition we’ve all signed into court for Danny’s appeal. A crucial issue will be whether keeping Danny in jail is in the public interest - so our petition calling for his freedom, signed by so many thousands of people, will be vital for Danny’s case.
If we’re going to show the court that the public don’t want Danny in jail, we need as many signatures as possible on that petition by tomorrow. It really could be what decides whether or not Danny comes home with me and our children in just a few hours' time. Every single signature counts.
This could be our last chance to help Danny. Right now, more than 90,000 of us have signed the petition - but Danny’s lawyers have said they think it will be a huge boost to his case if we can get it up to 100,000 signatures by the time they take it into court.
[This is a repost from 2005. It's still appropriate...Javier Alvarez is Someone You Should Know]
Randy sends this email, a must read if ever there was one, that he received from Captain James Eadie today:
A Time for Thanksgiving As
Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I eagerly anticipate the plates of
turkey and stuffing, the moments of camaraderie around the TV watching
football and the sharing of stories amongst friends, but it is the
soldiers’ stories of bravery and courage that should be shared on this
day of Thanksgiving.
had the rare chance to talk in depth with one of my CCATT patients on
our last flight, a young 24 year old Marine from Camp Pendleton,
California. It is Javier’s story hangs with me this day. Javier gave me
permission to share his story with you, a true story of heroism, and
sacrifice that deserves to be told on Thanksgiving.
On the morning of 16 November 2005, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment were taking part in operations along the Iraq-Syrian board to clear the towns of insurgents.
a strong and sturdy looking square jawed Marine Corporal was on his
third deployment to Iraq. He had seen heavy combat in his previous two
deployments, and had been injured once before earning him a Purple
Heart. On this day he was in command of a Squad of fourteen men. I knew
just by talking to him that his men were fortunate to have him leading
them into battle. He spoke with clarity and confidence of a man twice
his age. In the truest essence, he was a Marine.
this morning Javier’s Squad was providing tank security (I still don’t
fully understand how infantry provides security to tanks, but that’s
why I am in medicine).
The morning of the 16th
started like many – early. The operation was going well. The Marines
were taking some fire, but were successfully clearing the town they had
been assigned. Urban warfare is extremely dangerous. Each house must be
searched before it can be “cleared.” US and Iraqi Security Forces have
taken heavy losses in past urban offenses such as Fallujah. Javier had
no intention of letting that happen to his men today.
the tanks were rolling down the street they began taking heavier fire.
The Squad broke into a brisk jog to keep up with the tanks as they
pushed forward into the fire fight. Ahead was a house that seemed to be
the focus of the fight. Lying in the doorway to the house was a downed
Marine. He laid motionless spread across the sill. Further in there lay
Platoon Sergeant grabbed Javier and told him to send his half of his
Squad to the house to pull out the downed Marines. Normally, the Squad
leader would stay back to coordinate the assault, but Javier told me ‘I
could not send my men into harms way without me.”
point, Javier led his five man team towards the house. Shots rang out
around them as they advanced. They could see the downed Marines ahead.
A young Lieutenant lay face down outside the house. Javier did not know
if he was still alive. They would have to act quickly if they were to
save him and the others.
they approached the house the enemy fire intensified and Javier felt a
sudden sting and burning in his right leg. He looked down at his leg.
Damn, he thought, “I’ve been shot.” He indeed had taken two bullets to
his thigh, but he pushed on.
Javier continued to lead his men towards the house. With increasing
fire, they took up a defensive posture against the house wall. Slightly
protected there, he began tending his wounds with direct pressure as
the others returned fire. He could see several downed Marines only arm
lengths away, but they could not be reached safely. Gun fire continued
to rain down on them. Another member of the squad was hit. They were in
a bad position.
happened next was recalled to me by the Medic that they called Doc.
During the barrage of fire, with their backs literally up against a
wall an enemy grenade was thrown out of a window landing in the middle
of the five men. Doc told me “It was amazing. I was applying pressure
to one of the injured soldiers when someone yelled out GRENADE. Javier
just dove at the grenade. I have never seen anything like it.”
grabbed the grenade with his right hand. He told me “I knew I only had
three to five seconds before it would go off.” With his body shielding
his men from the grenade, he made a valiant effort to heave the grenade
away. As the grenade left his hand it exploded.
right hand was immediately amputated at the wrist. Shrapnel from the
grenade penetrated his left thigh. Others in his group took shrapnel to
their arms and legs, but no one lost their life.
Doc told me on the plane that he was convinced that they all would have died if it were not for Javier’s heroic actions.
fighting continued. As more Marines approached the house to provide
covering fire, Javier now with two gun shot wounds to his right leg,
shrapnel to his left leg and an amputated right hand worked to get his
injured men clear. With the aid of his Platoon Sergeant, Javier and his
men walked out of the kill zone to the casualty collection point away
from the fighting.
stayed in the fight for a while despite being hit with shrapnel from
the grenade. He tended to the downed Marines and at one point crawled
into the house to pull out the Marine who lay inside. Unfortunately,
most of the Marines they came to help had been fatally injured. There
was little that could be done. Doc continued to care for the downed
soldiers until others noted his wounds. Doc was finally escorted out of
the fight to attend to his injuries.
all told, Javier’s Squad took heavy injuries. We air lifted out 6
members who had sustained shrapnel injuries and one who lost his leg.
Javier clearly took the brunt of the injuries, but miraculously no one
lost their life. Javier’s selfless action had saved the lives of many
spoke at length with Javier on the flight to Germany. Perhaps it was
the awe that I felt talking with him that kept me coming back, or maybe
the fact that his men admired him so much. In the end, I think I was
drawn in by him because he was just like you and me. He was real. A
soldier who had done everything asked of him by his country. He fought
with honor and dignity, and led his men with courage. Above all, he put
his men’s life above his and protected them from harm.
didn’t ask for honors or special treatment. His biggest concern when we
were loading him onto the plane was his fellow soldiers. He would not
lie down until he had visualized and spoken with all of his troops on
I arrived home from the mission, I opened the paper. There before me in
simple bullet format read the names of the most recent US deaths in
Iraq. I generally do not look at these lists. They are just names with
no personal connection. But this day, halfway down there were five
Marines listed including a young Second Lieutenant all from the 2nd Battalion, 1st
Marine Regiment from Pendleton, California who had died on 16 November,
2005. These were the men that Javier and his Squad gave everything to
try to save.
stared at the paper for many minutes, recalling the story Javier and
his men had told me. I marveled at the sacrifices they made and felt a
tremendous sense of loss for these men whose names now stood out from
the paper as not mere records, but as living, breathing men who gave
everything their country asked of them.
I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving here in Iraq, I have so much to
be thankful for. My wife is amazing, we have been blessed with a child
on the way, and I feel like I have the greatest family and friends that
one could ever wish for, but there is more. I see around me everyday
soldiers giving everything they have with the full belief that their
actions do make a difference. That their sacrifices are for freedom and
will one day improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis.
I sit down on Thursday to my thanksgiving meal, I will be holding these
soldiers and their families close. We as a country have so much to be
me, on this Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for Javier. He has given the gift of life to his men and their families. I often ask
myself if I was in his position, what would I have done? I don’t know,
but I certainly hope that I could be like Javier.
My warmest wishes to you all for a wonderful Thanksgiving, we truly have a great deal to be thankful for.
James S Eadie, Capt USAF MC
332 Expeditionary Air Evacuation Squadron
Critical Care Air Transport Physician
The men who died that day were Lance Corporal Roger Deeds, Lance Corporal John Lucente, Corporal Jeffrey Rogers, Corporal Joshua Ware, and 2nd Lieutenant Donald McGlothin - all from the Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment, 13th MEU, 1st Marine Division.
Robin Meade and her team at HLN have done a lot of high-quality and meaningful stories about our veterans, military troops, the Fallen, and their families. On Veterans Day at 8pm EST, Robin and HLN will debut "108 Hours - An Original HLN Documentary":
How far would a father go to honor his son?
After Army Sgt. Michael Stokely was killed in action, his father
Robert set out on a journey like no other. He wanted to go to Iraq --
half a world away -- to visit the site of his son's last moments on
earth. It is an unforgettable pilgrimage of danger, determination,
unbroken promises and undying love.
Tune in to a very special hour on November 11, Veteran's Day, at 8
p.m. on HLN for the premiere of the original documentary event, "108
The Stokelys are an amazing American family, none better. Please tune in on Sunday night, Veterans' Day, at 8pm EST. It will be worth your time. Please share and speard the word.
Victoria Cross Awarded to Aussie Corporal Daniel Alan Keighran
Posted By Blackfive
The Victoria Cross is the highest military honor in order of precedence of the Commonwealth's awards. It is akin to our Medal of Honor. There have 99 awards of the VC (or equivalent) to Australians with only 3 of those awards since 1991.
Corporal Daniel Alan Keighran VC has been invested as the recipient
of Australia’s 99th Victoria Cross by Governor-General Quentin Bryce
during a ceremony at Government House, Canberra.
His citation reads: “For the most conspicuous acts of gallantry and
extreme devotion to duty in action in circumstances of great peril at
Derapet, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, as part of the Mentoring Task
Force One on Operation SLIPPER” on 24 August 2010.
At the time, Corporal Keighran was a member of the 6th Battalion,
The Royal Australian Regiment which was deployed to Afghanistan with
Mentoring Task Force One.
Corporal Keighran is only the third recipient of the Victoria Cross
for Australia, which in 1991 replaced the British or Imperial Victoria
Cross awarded to 96 Australians. He is the first member of the Royal
Australian Regiment to receive the country’s highest military honour.
Corporal Keighran said he was surprised and honoured to receive the award.
“This is a very unexpected and humbling experience and I don’t think it has really sunk in yet,” Corporal Keighran said.
“I am very proud of the boys from Delta Company, 6 RAR and how they
performed that day. This award is as much for their efforts as it is for
“I would also like to acknowledge my family, friends and especially
my wife Kathryn. They have been very supportive throughout my service
and deployments and I would like to recognise and thank them.”
The Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, congratulated
Corporal Daniel Keighran, VC on being awarded the Victoria Cross for
“Corporal Keighran acted with exceptional clarity and composure that
spread to those soldiers around him, giving them confidence to operate
effectively in an extremely stressful and dangerous situation,” General
“His actions identified and suppressed enemy firing points and turned the fight in our favour.
“Corporal Keighran joins an esteemed group of Australians revered
for their courage in combat. The official citation will show that “his
valour is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army
and the Australian Defence Force,” but perhaps the greatest honour comes
from one of his comrades who said ‘I would fight to serve with Corporal
Dan Keighran in the future’.”
The Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, commented on
the enduring humility, dedication and mateship demonstrated by Corporal
“Corporal Keighran has shown tremendous humility and has continually
recognised that his actions were undertaken as part of a team,”
Lieutenant General Morrison said.
“His dedication to his mates and to the operation saw him repeatedly
put himself in harm’s way that day. He epitomises ‘Duty First’, the
motto of the Royal Australian Regiment.
“The valour of his actions and those of the other members of his
patrol, are exemplars of the very best in Australian soldiering,”
Lieutenant General Morrison said.
Corporal Keighran had several combat tours and is now a reservist. He has been awarded the following honors and awards:
Victoria Cross for Australia
Australian Active Service Medal with Clasp Iraq and Clasp ICAT
Iraq Campaign Medal
Afghanistan Campaign Medal
Australian Service Medal with Clasp East Timor
Australian Defence Medal
United Nations Mission in Support of East Timor Medal
NATO Non Article 5 Medal with Clasp ISAF
Meritorious Unit Citation for 1-MTF
Infantry Combat Badge
The full citation for the Victoria Cross is posted after the jump.
A Medevac Crew that you should know - The men and women of Charlie 3-25
Posted By Blackfive
“We send our strongest flight medics out here because of injuries we see. This area is the worst, so we need soldiers that can handle it.” - Captain Margaret Larson, Medevac Pilot and XO, C/3-25.
The flight crews of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment,
25th Combat Aviation Brigade, pose in front of a UH-60 Black Hawk
located in Pasab, Afghanistan, in late September.
(Photo by Sgt. Randy Ojeda/25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs)
This is a great story about a Medevac station in Afghanistan:
Medevac central: A glimpse at one of the busiest medevac locations in Afghanistan
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
Story by Capt. Richard Barker
Sunday, October 10, 2012
PASAB, Afghanistan – When I was asked to meet and capture the lives of the medevac crews of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, located at Pasab, a small outpost in a highly-active and dangerous region of Afghanistan located west of Kandahar Airfield, I was slightly concerned.
I expected to meet a rag-tag group of medevac crews. It would have to make sense, I thought. Pasab has the most challenging medevac missions in Regional Command-South due to the high frequency of missions and traumatic nature of the injuries common in the area.
Pasab averages 30 percent of all Category Alpha medevac missions in RC-South. The medevac crews at Pasab also see the worst injuries as they only respond to urgent medical calls, known as CAT-A missions. These are calls with injuries, such as a multiple amputee patients, that require a response from mission start to medical facility delivery of less than one hour - known as the golden hour.
When I arrived to meet the medevac crews, I was greeted by a very energetic Capt. Margaret Larson, a pilot and the executive officer for C/ 3-25. She gave me a two-minute tour of their footprint. There were two sleep tents and a third tent that served as an operations center and crew rest area.
As Larson introduced me to the Pasab flight crews, I noticed my expected vision of them was way off. These were professional soldiers with overall impressive statures.
“We send our strongest flight medics out here because of injuries we see,” explained Larson. “This area is the worst, so we need soldiers that can handle it.”
I sat down with many of the crew members who were eager to share their experiences.
The soldiers explained some of the challenges of life in Pasab.
First was the secret behind their high levels of energy and calm. Due to the nature of the Pasab mission, no single medevac crew is allowed to stay in Pasab for more than two weeks at a time. Instead they rotate out to Pasab from Kandahar Airfield, on an either weekly or bi-weekly basis depending on the mission tempo.
The one to two weeks they are at Pasab, though, are rough, as the crews cannot leave the small area they operate in. There are two full crews at Pasab which rotate every 24 hours from being first responder to second responder. As a result, if there are two missions, everyone is flying.
Members of the crew explained this can mean long times without showers, and that they find the time to sleep and eat when they can. Sleeping sometimes comes in spurts while food comes from piles of care packages stacked in the corner of their operations tent.
Regardless, they all expressed a love for what they do.
“I like doing what I do,” said Spc. Arnell James, a flight medic for C/3-25, from Savannah, Ga., who has been on the Pasab rotation five times. “I like the mission tempo and being able to do our job, to be able to use the skills we trained for.”
I was informed that some of the medics on the crews were not flight medics, rather medics who served as a second hand to the flight medics. While this is not a common practice, it is deemed necessary in Pasab.
Spc. John Hill, a medic with 209th Headquarters and Headquarters Support Company, 209th Aviation Support Battalion, 25th CAB, and a native of Austin, Texas, is one of the selected “second-hand” flight medics at Pasab.
“I signed up to be a medic to help other people,” said Hill, who is on his second rotation to Pasab. “That’s the kind of person missions like this need; someone who wants to help but doesn’t expect anything in return.”
The crews began to share their lighter and humorous stories. One involved a miscommunication where a call over the radio to request a replacement crew chief due to losing one from “intestinal distress” was wrongly heard as “emotional distress.” To make a long story short, the poor crew chief, who was simply trying to relieve his “intestinal distress” in a nearby portable bathroom, was surprised to find an army of leadership was outside trying to talk him out before he hurt himself from “emotional distress.”
The humorous stories continued when a loud, alerting sound came from the operations desk where all medevac missions and updates are monitored. Everyone was on their feet in an instant, many gone with amazing haste. Others stood ready to take action as they waited for the official call.
“It’s just a weather update,” yelled the operations sergeant. The soldier standing closest to me took a deep breath, placed one hand on his heart and another on my shoulder as he told me the adrenaline was always pumping around there.
The crews slowly returned to sit around and share some more. For some reason, the false alarm caused the crews to start sharing their sadder stories.
“The harder days are when we have to go pick up kids,” said James, as he stared down at his feet. “It hits close to home. I picked up a girl once who looked just like my daughter.”
The crews started to discuss other challenges at Pasab, ranging from extreme, dusty environments to the threat of land mines on landing zones and common instances of random gun fire.
The discussion turned to treating Afghan National Army soldiers.
“Treating local nationals can be a challenge,” said James explaining they sometimes resist treatment. “Some have never seen a helicopter and they get scared, and on top of that we have the language barrier. But we push through it, we do our job and we are successful.”
The Pasab medevac crews have a 98-percent success rate of retrieving, treating and transporting their patients to a medical facility within the golden hour.
The conversations continued into the night as I chuckled to myself about how wrong I had been about this group.
No medevac calls came through while I was there, but, sometimes that’s just how it is.
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson ("Uncle Jimbo") is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy. Email: jimbo AT unclejimbo DOT com
Writer, photographer, and raconteur C. Blake Powers is the Laughing Wolf. He is independent in politics and covers topics including journalism, military, weapons, preparedness, space, science, cooking, food and wine, product and book reviews, and even spirituality. Email: wolf1 AT laughingwolf DOT net Laughing Wolf's Amazon Wish List
Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
reserve naval aviator. He blogs over at www.instapinch.com on a veritable
cornucopia of various and sundry items and will bring a tactical naval
aviator's perspective to Blackfive. Readers be warned: any comments of or
about the F-14 Tomcat will be reverential and spoken in low, hushed tones.
Email: wpaisley AT comcast DOT net
Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
Email: TheDOTMrDOTWolfAT gmail DOT com
Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
Email: mcq51 -at - bellsouth -dot- net
Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
Major Pain --
A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.