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.

ONE |

July 24, 2007

ONE
Name: LT Carl Goforth
Posting date: 7/24/07
Stationed in: Anbar Province, Iraq
Milblog url: desertflier.blogspot.com
Email: cwgoforth@gmail.com


I'm sitting in EVAC with Tim, watching the Buick Open on the Armed Forces Network. I'm not a big golf fan, but I'll take any distraction at this point.

"Just past midnight. We finally hit One July."

"Yeah. The month you're in doesn't count, and the month you go home doesn't count either. Guess that means we only have one month left in Iraq?" Tim's laughing and not quite agreeing at the same time, as we herald the disappearance of June and crawl one month closer to home.

"Four casualties inbound. Mikes unknown; still engaged in a firefight," says one of the EVAC platoon medics.

"Army or Marine?"

"Army."

Tim and I walk out to Patient Receiving, waking up some key staff, including surgical teammates. Hospital CO is up, as well as the XO.

3rd ID Sergeant Major drives up; his men have been ambushed and are taking a beating. The unit is having a hard time getting them out of the fight. Finally a Humvee guns up to Charlie Medical out of the dark; one of the four casualties. A Soldier with gunshot wounds to his extremities. Medics, corpsman, and physicians go right to work; no surgical intervention is needed, and he will be fine. The Humvee looks worse than the soldier: the turret is torn to pieces, but the gunner is OK. Two more casualties arrive via Humvee. They are also OK. More gunshot wounds, but all stable. No surgery needed; we start making arrangements for MEDVAC.

Framed_goforth_one_humvee_3The fourth casualty is critical. GSW to the face and no way to safely get him to Charlie Medical by road. A decision is made: one of the Apache gunships providing close air support will touch down, the gunner will get out, and we will just airlift him in the Apache. Effective, and a first for anyone present.

He has some facial damage and airway swelling. In the OR, Bob does an awake intubation to protect him from continued edema (swelling). Mark flies all four patients to Balad, and they do well.

9 AM: We get a detainee from last night's firefight. Both feet shot. The surgical team takes him to the OR for debridement
* and a complete washout. After post-operative recovery the detainee is taken, complete with security entourage, to a detention center in Baghdad that has an attached hospital.

1 PM finds Jason and I trying to figure out another detainee's injuries. Initial chest film looks good, but the patient's oxygen levels aren't quite right and he seems to be guarding a mystery injury. Tim and I are in the x-ray room five yards away, and I'm right in the middle of looking at the detainee's chest film, when a detonation and the subsequent deep bass of its concussion wave knock the wooden window cover back.

My initial thought is, "Mortar attack, pretty close." Jason and I both look at our patient and immediately request he be put in patient hold for observation. We need the trauma bay cleared out -- as in right now. All staff immediately start pulling down litters, setting up triage stations, and the trauma bay jumps to life as all stations are manned with medics and corpsman.

Framed_goforth_replace_explosion_2"VBIED" cracks over the radios. My initial thought was wrong but the results will be the same: casualties. I snap a quick picture from Charlie Medical on my way to Tactical Command, only a few shorts steps away. A truck-borne IED has taken out a local bridge. Small arms fire is coming from the back gate. The few remaining staff are running to Charlie Medical from church service and from the barracks.

New insurgent tactics include attacking Anbar infrastructure.
This is the second local bridge targeted over the past few weeks. The attack was coordinated with several others in Anbar throughout the day, including another bridge in nearby Fallujah. A communications tower was targeted last month. There's been a shift away from hitting local civilian populations, as the insurgents found that Sunni leaders have united against outside aggressors and are now working directly with U.S. and Coalition authorities under the Anbar Salvation Council.

Radios continue to stream information: two casualties inbound. Both Iraqi civilian. They weren't close to the blast, and only have some superficial scrapes and soft tissue injuries.

The rest of the afternoon is spent on standby as more casualties arrive. An abandoned VBIED is blown up by an Explosive/Ordnance platoon near the bridge. I'm not sure if the driver was found, or what happened to him.

Midnight: An Angel ceremony for the fallen. The entire Army unit is in formation, and the surgical team falls in, off to the side. We get word that the men lost today were the heart and soul of their platoon. Tragic beyond words. In formation, it's an unspoken rule that no one talks. Thirty minutes of silence. Each man left to his thoughts and prayers for the fallen, and the families and friends left behind. Yet in the silence, we all feel so connected. We stand as one collective Spirit to honor those who gave all. Two hundred silent salutes in the night as an H-46 lifts them gently Home.

One July. One 24-hour period; midnight to midnight.

One day that couldn't go fast enough.

One day that I will never forget.

*debridement: the removal of dead, damaged or infected tissue, or foreign material, from a wound

Comments

Lt Goforth,
Wow, your posts are always intense. Thankyou for sharing.
Our deepest sympathy to all of you and the families of the fallen!

What an incredible job you and your compatriots are doing. Back in 2001 I attended the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill and visited the CSH they had on display. Who knew then that we'd be at war in less than two years? We got to go through the field hospital, talk to the personnel, look at the equipment, and discuss the fantastic advances in medical science which have been incorporated into military medicine. I remember there was a hands-on simulator dummy there, complete with trauma injuries, upon which medics were trained.

When I read posts like yours I am thankful for that small peak into your world, and grateful that there are people like you dedicated to the highest principles of medicine. Thanks to you and others like you our injured soldiers and Marines have a fighting chance to return home to their loved ones.

Your description of the VBIED reminds us that even our so-called rear echelon people are in harm's way. Wasn't it only a week ago that one of our nurses was killed by a mortar fired into the Green Zone? It must be very difficult to witness such things every day. I hope you continue saving lives and then return safely home. You've earned it.

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