Showing 18 posts tagged Medics
During OEF X-XI our platoon was tasked with vehicle recovery, QRF, basic patrols, and permanent EOD escort (which I am here to tell you that it is nowhere near as cool and pretty as the Hurt locker was, though there were times when we thought Joker 32 may have been watching it before we were all called up lol).
One day, about 3 months in country, we began with a routine trip into Bowri Tani past Garbuz to a large wadi with a pretty obvious IED sitting in a pothole in the road (yes Afghani’s are pretty good people and often call them in because they often kill them as they go about their daily business). When we stopped we noticed a bunch of camels and tents north towards the hills so Lt., Louis, and our terp walked over to talk to them to see if they saw who did put the IED there of course I tagged along because I was tired of trying sleeping in the MAXPRO on the ride out (don’t judge me I didn’t get much sleep because of the pace of op’s lmao).
We had a pretty fun time learning about the tent people with many camels who are known as the Kuchi, a nomadic tribe that wanders around a lot. After we gave up (they weren’t telling us sh*t) we saw a shitty looking van off in the distance. lmao Of course our high speed LT had a pair of binoculars on him and he called it back to Joker and wally so they could figure out what to do about it. As we walked back to the trucks the van took off parallel to the road. It was pretty far away but Joker told wally to get back in his truck and follow the EOD truck into the wadi. In what seemed like a scene in an action movie, all parties sped into the wadi as 13 (an rg-31) got there 1st. Wally and his dismounts Gamble and I think pursley got out and drew weapons on the van as brownie aimed his .50 at em’ in his turret. They stopped in their tracks and after a search of their vehicle and pockets the teens inside had a shit load of cell phone. They were trying to hook one up and drive away to wait for joker and to negotiate the IED and detonate it. LT called up the engineers at the outpost up the road to come detain the guys in the van. Joker used the cool ass robot to blow up the ied and we thought our day wouldn’t get any cooler than that as we turned the convoy around to head back to Sal (best of both world b*tch this medic got to be half POG/ half amazing lmao).
The whole ordeal had taken a few hours and we decided not to f*ck around and try to get back before dark (most of the small arm’s contact in our AO happened at night). We took a route through the outskirts of Khowst city. It was pretty urban but all the walls look like they are made of mud. As we passed the local mosque and outdoor restaurant, our convoys slowed down. I was riding in the 16 truck at the time and was 3rd truck in the convoy.
We slammed to a stop and I heard all kinds of chatter on the radio. All I could make out was Louis saying “f*ck it we’re backing up” and Brownie saying “I got him.”
All of a sudden I heard the rapid thud of a .50 cal burst, then another, and then a final burst then a loud metallic “SLAM”. I was trying to look out the front windshields to figure out what the fuck was going on but couldn’t see anything because of the angle of the vehicles. Next I head “Doc we need you up here!” over the headset and I threw it off grabbed my slim bag and jumped out the back door of the MAXPRO as soon as it was lowered enough for me to fit.
I sprinted toward the lead truck on the right side of the convoy looking for anything to help (I was still dumb at that time as evident in my dashing into an unknown and uncontrolled situation lmao) when I got to the front of the lead truck I noticed that the EOD truck had pulled up front and Joker 32 had jumped out as quickly as I had.
I looked to my left and saw a 4 door sedan smashed into the side of a manure pile and a (literal) trail of brain matter that followed the curved path of the vehicle as it left the road and hit the mound. Already thinking “Oh fuck my life” and “Brown (Brownie’s real name which I never said unless I was pissed at him) why did you do this to me?!”
The back window was blown out and more pieces of flesh and thick dark blood was splattered across the truck lid. Me and Joker met at the back of the car and he looked at me and yelled “Get the fuck behind something Doc, Brown shot em cause he thought it was a VBIED” (carbomb for the less awesome) I turned and ran behind the cover of 17 (still too close and if the car did detonate I would have still been killed by the pressure) As I kneeled behind 17 I could hear a groan coming from the car and Joker yelled “Doc I think it’s safe come back” as I thought to myself “I’m not ready for this oh shit I’m not ready for this” (as These would be my 1st patient’s outside the wire)
I ran back up to the car this time paying more attention to the inside. I saw the damage done by the armor piercing incendiary rounds from the .50 but I didn’t register until later. The passenger on the rear left had a large exit wound exposing the inside of the back of his head making him expectant. I noted to myself that there was nothing I could do. The passenger on rear right side appeared smaller but also had an exit wound in the back of his head which was kind of leaned to the left. As I reached the right rear passenger door I asked Joker 32 who was making the noises I heard earlier and he said he didn’t know they were all fucked up. I realized the right rear passenger was a young preteen looking boy and I quickly looked at the front passengers to see if I should go after them first. They looked to be obviously dead.
Forgetting the back of his head was blown off I reached inside and opened the door to pull this kid out. I grabbed his right wrist and checked for a pulse (I will never know if I made a rookie mistake and felt my own pulse or he actually still had one).
LT had run up behind me muttering to himself “This is bad, this is really bad, we fucked up…” I reached in an tried to yank this kid out but the adrenaline made me stupid and I didn’t notice his seat belt (surprising that Afghans pick up explosives in the street like it’s nothing but wear seat belts smh). I undid the seatbelt and tried to pull him out again. I turned and yelled at LT to “Help me with this shit” but he just stood there shaking his head. I yanked again and heard a tearing sound like paper, then another. I finally got his torso out the car when the bottom of his left sleeve opened up and his arm from the shoulder down slid down almost out of the end of the sleeve. It just plain fell off.
At that moment I just wanted to push the kid back into the car slam the door and go puke and cry behind one of the trucks but everyone was watching and I didn’t want them to think I would give up or was incompetent. I noted the lack of bleeding but still layed the upper half of the kid (his right ankle had gotten smashed and stuck under one of those seat adjustment rails under the front seat) and, for the first time noticed that his eyes were stuck open and unfocused and his jaw was slack. All then panic and rush seemed to fall right out of me. All I could feel was a knot in my stomach. His face looked like it was so disappointed in me. I checked his radial pulse in his right wrist again and felt nothing. I was going to check his carotid pulse but the was a whole where the artery should have been (and again a lack of bleeding) I took a deep breath and pulled the pen light from the front punch on my chest and while blocking the setting sun checked his eyes for any pupillary reaction. There was none what so ever.
I put the light away. Stood up and opened the front drivers side door (right side) to buy myself sometime until I could think of anything to say to LT or Joker who saw all that shit. The driver had taken a round directly in the chest and I could see almost through him. The front passenger had partially caught a round in the forehead. and his head above his nose (except his scalp!?) was gone. His scalp just kind of lay over his nose. Later I, guess to show the guys I wasn’t affected, I would call it his “Toupee”. I looked at the kid again just hanging out the door looking up at the sky. (It’s nothing like the movies, when you try to close a dead person’s eyes they just pop right back open).
I walked to the road and looked at Brownie and smoked a cigarette. My hands and cigarette were sticky with the blood from the car. All I could think about was that “I had lost 4 people in front of my whole platoon I bet they think I ain’t shit now”. LT walked over (with his grande gift to make things worse) and said “was there anything you coulda done for that kid? should I call up a 9-line?” I explained to him the anatomy and ballistics of the situation and they were all dead probably by the time they crashed. “Gunny”, a marine adviser attached to the EOD team, asked me if I could reach back into the car and open the trunk release. I asked him why he couldn’t do it and he looked away and said “your the medic, that’s the kinda shit you do” I could tell he just didn’t want to fuck around with dead bodies.
Joker and LT explained to me what happened up front. As 13 had come around a curve in the road, they saw the car stopped. It turned on it’s headlights and drove at first slowly towards them about 200 ft. out while getting in the right lane towards the convoy. As 13 slowed down the car sped up and turned off it’s headlights (This is when everyone thought oh shit it’s a VBIED) Sigrah, the driver of 13, put the truck in reverse thinking the car might swere away (some afghans like to play chicken with convoys but normally they stop it before it’s no longer a game.) There were no other cars on the road so Brownie put a burst across the street to set a line and as a warning shot (which actually aren’t allowed according to ISAF) the car sped up so he put a burst through the hood and then a final burst through the windshield and the car finally jerked to the right less then 50 ft. away from the front of 13 (The only thing that kept brownie out of trouble was his excellent marksmanship record and photos taken at the scene which showed the tire streaks, where the pavement was ripped up from the .50 rounds and where the trail of brains and blood started. I couldn’t believe how close they got before he finally said fuck it).
For a while all I could do was walk up and down the street smoking cigarettes looking at that kid wondering where I fucked up at until I ran out and SSG hooton gave me a dip and asked if I was okay. The local police finally arrived and with the the terp I showed them the whole scene and told them that I couldn’t save them. They seemed to understand. And asked me if I could help them get the bodies out of the car the. Sun had gone down and I didn’t want to (I actually have a strict policy about messing with dead people after sundown now lol it’s too creepy I wont do it!) but I helped them anyways.
The EOD terp, a fat lady who was actually american but spoke pashtun, walked over to be nosy and saw the kid. She turned to Brownie in the turret and yelled “You killed kids!!!!” and started yelling shit at him in pashtun. Joker calmed her down and got her back in his truck. Even though I had gone through and shown the local cops the bodies one by one (3 of them were clearly bearded grown men in their 30’s.) They started raising their AK’s in the air and yelling shit at us. We already felt terrible about the situation but eventually we ended up in a stand off with weapons raised before SSG badamy pulled up in his ASV and had both the MK19 and .50 pointed at them and they walked off probably thinking (cheap mother fuckers!).
Our battalion commander even came out to speak with the locals and apologize and we had to block the police truck from taking the bodies away before everything could be investigated. After a brief argument with the police who were demanding a litter from me I walked up to the nearest vehicle, grabbed on and threw it at the guy who pushed me. The dead were loaded on one of the city police trucks and we escorted it to another compound where the car and it’s occupants could be identified.
By finger printing them, It was found that of the two up front, one was a bomb maker and the other had a prior arrest for transporting explosives. The grown man in the back was an off duty police officer and the kid in the back was his nephew who turned out to be 14 years old.
The subsequent news stories that came out said all kinds of outlandish shit like “car full of 12 year olds on the way home from a volleyball game killed”. The one that sickened me the most was the New York Times (Lying cowardly pieces of shit I still have the link to their version) who’s story was taken almost a week after it happened from some dip shit’s “so my buddy heard” story on Bagram. None of that shit bothered me too much because the ISAF panel that was dead set on doing their worst to Brownie and the platoon leadership found that we had did the right thing after looking at the scene, photo evidence, and my testimony which involved me drawing a detailed layout of what happened and matching the pictures of the injuries to the corresponding victim and their position in the car!?
(I really didn’t want to see that shit again the guy who caught the round in the chest had frag holes in his abdomen and his intestines had started to push their way out). Brownie and wally explained to me that it was the extremely hot frag from the rounds that killed the two in the back seat after I asked why the entrance wounds in their face and top of their heads were so irregularly small in comparison to the exit wounds.
When I got home the next year me and my mom were drinking and talking and she had been asking me what It was like there. I finally told her about that and asked if she remembered it coming up in the news (she didn’t because shortly afterward a unit down south in 2 ID had shot up a passenger bus and the shitty media had finally forgotten about our story and started attacking those guys).
I realize nobody who hasn’t been to that place can understand the context of the actions taken but when my mom said she understood and still loved us and thought of us as heroes I believed her. I actually have a picture of that kid (cleaned up for the funeral) from a local news clipping. When I stood up to go check the rest of the car I had never felt more useless in my life.
Whenever my platoon would bring it up they would say things to the other platoons like “my Doc is badass he can handle anything and not puke” or “Doc I could never do your job”. When we talked about it I often laughed or joked it off like when me and martin were pulling security on an alley that night before we left and he asked me “so did his arm really fall off?!” and I said “yeah that shit was gross but I didn’t know I was that strong”.
Even though I felt helpless and dumb somehow watching me try and still keep a straight calm face gave them even more confidence in me which restored my confidence in my self and when they would later need me I didn’t have a worry in the world. My empathy will never let me stop feeling guilty or forget but knowing they had my back and knowing that they knew I had their back no matter how ugly it was made always made me feel so much better (except when they came to me during down time with shit like hemorrhoids and crotch rot smh lol).
Those were my first patients outside the wire (would not be the last), the 1st of 4 times we would make the news (the other times were much more positive) and my first time really feeling like a true member of the family in that platoon.
The end, until the next time I feel like getting things off my chest.