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.


November 14, 2011

Name: Major Mark Duber
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Cleveland, Ohio
Milblog: Warbird Doctor Diaries

Two days ago my time here in Afghanistan bled the reality my life has become.  My fellow surgeons and I were headed to the DFAC at our usual time for dinner, when from out of nowhere two rockets passed 100 feet over our heads and landed 50 yards away in a chilling intense explosion; a deafening white and red fiery aura surrounded us. Everyone in sight scattered in disorientation. After hitting the ground on instinct we sprinted to a nearby bunker and waited for the unexpected immediate future.

Within a couple minutes the bunker was filled with the stench of sweating soldiers after being filled to capacity. The familiar sounds of Apache gunships filled the distance, and with it comments of mal-tidings for those responsible, from soldiers in my close proximity. A couple minutes later the sirens and audible message of “Code Delta” began.*

We were not aware if any injuries had been caused, so after a short amount of time we sprinted back to the FST to hold our positions if medical treatment was necessary. We were held in a position of lockdown for probably an hour, and fortunately no injuries were reported. We were informed that the rockets had hit positions just past a major congregating area, and left holes four feet in depth. Obviously the situation could have been much worse, and my subconsciousness and that of others were alarmed. For the remainder of the night our security was coaxed by the sounds of invisible Apaches keeping watch over us from the blackness of the sky above.

The following morning I awoke with my senses alert, unlike past days. The previous night’s rocket attack opened insecurities within myself I have not felt before. Lately, we have been informed that intelligence sources have increasing credible information of an impending attack on our base. With the recent foiled plan of 13 internal insurgents on our base and then yesterday’s rocket attack, anxiety is becoming apparent in members of our FST and surrounding soldiers. We actually were given tentative dates on which the attack could occur; very soon. All we can do is prepare and hope it does not come to fruition.

Framed Duber CODE DELTAToday, I saw a five-year-old Afghan girl back, who many previous FOB orthopedic surgeons have been involved with. Two years ago she fell into her home fire pit and sustained severe burns to her hand.  She has had multiple surgeries over the last couple of years to help regain motion and achieve separation of her fingers, which fused together following inadequate Third World local treatment.

This young girl has done surprisingly well, and may potentially need only one more operation. Today’s appointment with me was to see how her hand was progressing. Unfortunately, one of her fingers has begun to flex further as the surrounding deformed skin has continued to contract. Through our interpreter “Max” I discussed the situation with the girl’s father.  He agreed with my surgical plan, and a tentative date about a week from today was set, to surgically correct her finger.  I asked Joey T to join me for the surgery as he will be pursuing a fellowship in plastic surgery in the not-too-distant future, and skin grafting will likely be needed.  I’m excited to make a difference in this young girl’s life, and so is our entire Forward Surgical Team. 

*"Code Delta" means an attack is underway. There is also "Code Charlie," which means an attack is imminent, and "Code Bravo," which means an attack is highly possible.


God Bless America and all of you doctors and medical personnel who are making a differance showing these people that were not the barbarians that they have been told we are.

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