The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


May 10, 2007

Name: LT Carl Goforth
Posting date: 5/10/07
Stationed in: Anbar Province, Iraq
Milblog url:

Framed_goforth_dayhigroupI flew my first day mission a few days ago. An IP (Iraqi Police) came in with a gunshot wound to his abdomen. After three hours in the OR, we had to remove his spleen and part of his pancreas. There was shrapnel lodged near his vertebra, but we were able to safely remove it without causing any neurological compromise. He ended up losing a lot of blood before and during the case, and we couldn't wait until nightfall to fly him to Al Asad.

D-squared, Eric, and Mark help me package him up for the flight. Then I drop the "nine line" with the evacuation team and we wait for aeromedical evacuation support. If it happens to be a day flight, the Marine Corps takes responsibility and will usually send an H-46 Sea Knight. At night, the Army responds with a Blackhawk that is specially outfitted with an "H carousel" for medical evacuation.

Sure enough, as the little black dots race into our helo pad, a Sea Knight touches down so I can fly my patient to Al Asad. As an escort, a Cobra Gunship touches down next to us.Framed_goforth_dayhiflight

The patient was stable for the flight. He isn't out of the woods, so to speak, but we have a good feeling he will do well. The Army 399th CSH at Al Asad is an impressive facility with dedicated staff and deep resources.

The Iraqi landscape is beautiful, and I was glad I finally got the opportunity to see it in daylight. Too bad my camera batteries died on the helo pad right before takeoff. The photo ops were excellent on my return flight, since my only responsibility was to sightsee.

The desert from 2000 feet in the air looked like a scene from the movie Dune; every conceivable shade of tan, with burnt orange streaks running through numerous steppes and crevasses as if it were trying to carve out its own existence. We stick to the decidedly unpopulated routes for obvious reasons, but can't completely avoid small villages and outposts. I saw a few bombed-out abandoned homesteads, and also a few outposts along a major highway that were thriving with activity and trucking. Most of the architecture is simple: concrete block or other hardened material. Some buildings, however, were quite striking: they looked inspired by the Georgian Revival style. Two-story, with a large oval overhang in front supported by 4-6 colonnades, and a grand porch mirroring the overhang.

The Cobra gunship flew as our wingman, to the right and just aft (behind), occasionally veering off to evaluate potential threats. The sun was positioned perfectly, and I could see both of our shadows silhouetted on the desert floor as we raced along to Asad.Framed_goforth_dayhismile

Another interesting sight was an abandoned train station. The station itself was completely intact, having escaped damage from the war. But the access road from the main highway had rocket craters that perfectly prevented vehicles from getting from the road to the station. I was thinking about how it was going to be cheaper and easier to repair the road compared rebuilding the station...I'll take the little victories along with any big ones that come our way.


Great post. Thank you so much for serving and sharing.


What a wonderfully evocative writing style you have@ Thank you for saving lives, and for all you do for your comrades at arms!

Dear LT Carl Goforth
All the sights that you enjoy while still serving in the war is very admirable and is more than I could ever handle. If we were at war and I was flying high seeing destroyed stations I would only fear and be saddened but instead you find the beauty in the shadow and the different shades that exists in your eyes while flying above. While flying I can tell that you have a great sense of strength, courage and appreciate for what you are doing. Not only are you fighting for our country you are making the best out of it and enjoying every second in the air. Being in the OR and watching or even helping someone go through surgery and still fly that same day and see the beauty in life is amazing to read about and makes me proud that someone like you is out there fighting. The desert to me signifies nothing but dryness, yet when you are in the air interest, and thinking comes along with your flight. It is not just flying for the Army rather you are flying for yourself and it also brings a sense of joy and interest that comes through your recollection of flying. The craters and ruined buildings do not overcast your idea of beauty because you have touched and stated that the landscape of Iraqi is beautiful, you are not fighting to get out instead enjoying what is there. The observation you make towards buildings, scenery and the people is so impressive and your photographs enhance this life that you live and I hope your camera begins to work again so you can document the memories of the beautiful hillsides you seem to love. It is an honor to read such an honorable service man’s blog and I wish you the best of luck and let your dreams fly high just as you are doing with your plane.
A Sincere Fan,
Macey Davis

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