27 August 2014

Refueling Over Iraq

A U.S. F-18 fighter jet refuels from a U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over northern Iraq, Aug. 21, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel.

16 August 2014

Remembering Mike Stokely

SGT Mike Stokely
KIA 16 AUG 2005 near Yusufiyah Iraq

My thoughts are with you and your family today, Robert. We'll always love and remember Mike.

Part of Mike's legacy - Hughes, Ark., native, Staff Sgt. James Robinson, Company C, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, hands out school materials donated by the Mike Stokely Foundation at a school in Mullah Fayad, March 27, 2008. (U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback)

13 August 2014

Survivors of Battle of Wanat Find Closure at Medal of Honor Ceremony

Dr. Justin Madill served on a medevac helicopter in Afghanistan. Madill recently received the Air Medal with “V” device for valor. Photo: Courtesy of Justin Madill.

Another unsung Hero of the Battle of Wanat, MEDEVAC Flight Surgeon Dr. Justin Madill. In 2008, Madill was the 2-17 Cavalry, Task Force Flight Surgeon in the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and was also the medical director for the C6-101 Helicopter Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) Platoon and the Pathfinder Combat Search and Rescue Team. During that deployment, Madill flew and supervised missions for 479 patients, personally transported 143 patients, and extracted 49 patients from the battlefield.

In the early hours of July 13, 2008, a battle was raging in Wanat, Afghanistan.

In the final hours of the battle, a medevac helicopter flew in, navigating through heavy fire from enemy and U.S. forces to rescue the injured.

Dr. Justin Madill, 39, was the doctor on that helicopter. The Billings native now lives in Great Falls and is an emergency room physician at Benefis Health System. His parents, Cecil and Linda Madill, also live in Great Falls.

"There was really no good place to land," Madill said. "I thought for sure I was going to die."

Madill and other medics had to climb down farming terraces and through razor wire to reach the troops and then help them back up to the helicopter.

Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts was one of the troops Madill pulled out that day.

Last month, Pitts was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House for his actions during the battle.

Madill and the other troops involved attended the ceremony.

It was the first time they were all together again, in a calm and safe situation, Madill said.

At the ceremony, he also met family members of those killed during his deployment, including Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Kahler, for whom the outpost at Wanat was named.

Kahler was Pitt's platoon sergeant who was killed in January 2008 and was Madill's first medevac mission in Afghanistan.

"It gave everyone a sense of closure," Madill said. "It was a bigger deal than I thought it was going to be."

For his actions at Wanat, Madill received the Air Medal with "V" device for valor.

07 August 2014

Purple Heart Day

On Aug. 7, 1782, General George Washington, the commander in chief of the Continental Army, created the Badge for Military Merit. It consisted of a purple heart-shaped piece of silk edged with a narrow binding of silver with the word “Merit” stitched across the face in silver. The badge was presented to Soldiers for any singular meritorious action.

Now, the Purple Heart, which is the oldest American military decoration for military merit, is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who have been killed or wounded in action against an enemy. It is also awarded to soldiers who have suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.

Purple Heart day is dedicated to honoring service members, past and present, who have received the Purple Heart medal.

Read more at DVIDS.

21 July 2014

Former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts receives Medal of Honor for Battle of Wanat

From the Army Times.
Former Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts received the Medal of Honor on Monday for his heroism during the Battle of Wanat in 2008, one of deadliest clashes of the Afghanistan War. 
As President Obama draped the nation’s highest award for valor around Pitts’ neck at a White House ceremony, the former infantryman said his mind was on his nine “brothers” who fought beside him and died in that battle. 
“Standing there, I thought of these incredible men, and those present here today, especially our brothers who fell,” Pitts said in a brief statement after the ceremony. “Valor was everywhere that day, and the real heroes are those who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could return home.” 
Bolstered by four soldiers who braved gunfire to help hold the position, Pitts called for air support that helped repel the attack and prevented the enemy from taking the remains of his fellow soldiers who had been killed. 
1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom, 24
Sgt. Israel Garcia, 24
Cpl. Jonathan R. Ayers, 24
Cpl. Jason M. Bogar, 25
Cpl. Jason D. Hovater, 24
Cpl. Matthew B. Phillips, 27
Cpl. Pruitt A. Rainey, 22
Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20 
Spc. Sergio S. Abad, 21

In an Army Times interview weeks earlier, then-Capt. Matthew Myer, the company commander who was at VPB Kahler that day, said Pitts, who continued to fight and radio in information despite his injuries, was the “linchpin that held that ground.” 
An Army statement lauds Pitts’ “incredible toughness, determination, and ability to communicate with leadership while under fire” for allowing “U.S. forces to hold the observation post and turn the tide of the battle.” 
Pitts separated from the Army on October 27, 2009, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has since begun work in business development for the computer software industry.
He is the ninth living service member to receive the nation’s highest award for valor for actions in Afghanistan or Iraq. Seven troops have received the medal posthumously for their actions in those wars. Pitts is also the third soldier from 2/503 to receive the MoH for actions during the unit’s 2007-2008 deployment to Afghanistan. Former Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta was the first living service member to be honored for his actions in Iraq or Afghanistan; before Pitts, Sgt. Kyle White had been the most recent, in May. All three men deployed together in the same battalion in May 2007 for a 15-month tour in some of the toughest parts of eastern Afghanistan.

20 July 2014

Study: Change in transfusion protocol cuts troop death rate

Medical staff at a U.S. military field hospital tend to an Afghan soldier wounded in a rocket-propelled grenade attack. In 2006, doctors in combat hospitals implemented a protocol known as "damage control resuscitation," which called for a change in the ratios of blood components given to hemorrhaging patients, such as red-blood cells, plasma and platelets. The change resulted in fewer deaths from the battlefield, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Photo: Joshua L. DeMotts, Stars and Stripes.

Interesting study results from the Journal of the American Medical Association, via Stars and Stripes.

Fewer warfighters have died from bleeding complications in forward-based hospitals since 2006, when the military changed its protocol of blood transfusions used for such cases, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The DCR ["damage control resuscitation"] protocol is now widely used in civilian trauma centers, said Dr. John B. Holcomb, a surgeon with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston who retired from the Army in 2008 after serving 23 years.

“Everybody says that the silver lining that comes out war is improved trauma care, and I think this war is no exception,” Holcomb said.

There's much more at the link.

18 July 2014

Operation Proper Exit: Healing warriors, inspiring Soldiers

Maj. Gen. Michael Bills, commander of 1st Cavalry Division and Regional Command South, greets retired Sgt. Adam Keys with a welcoming handshake on Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, during Operation Proper Exit on July 10. Keys was an engineer who served with the 20th Engineer Brigade before he was wounded in combat in 2010. Photo: Staff Sgt. Whitney C. Houston | U.S. Army.

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Five soldiers had a chance to be with fellow soldiers once more and leave a combat zone on their own terms, including Fort Hood’s Col. Timothy Karcher, chief of staff for Operational Test Command.

Within minutes of touching down in Kandahar, Black Hawk helicopters lifted the wounded warriors back into the air to take them to Forward Operating Base Pasab.
Karcher said just being able to thank the soldiers in the fight was satisfying enough for him, because he couldn’t otherwise be with soldiers in a combat zone.

“I miss being with soldiers more than I miss my legs, but the fact of the matter is I get to come back and see you all,” he said.

The wounded warriors enjoyed town hall meetings where they met with soldiers and answered questions, both to give them insight and encouragement.
Questions ranged from how they’ve dealt with the loss of limbs and eyesight to how their front-line care saved their lives. One question that was asked at both Pasab and Kandahar was what soldiers could do to help their injured buddies back home?

“If you guys could do one thing to increase the morale of those guys in some hospital trying to heal, contact them every now and again,” said Adam Hartswick, who was injured serving with the 1st Armored Division about a year ago. “I’ve got to tell you, when I got a call from the guys it was the highlight of my week, because you are there lying in bed, and you want to know what’s going on with your brothers and sisters over here. So just pick up the phone and call.”

More at the link.

17 July 2014

Our Bravest - Cpl. Todd Nicely

Get to know Cpl. Todd Nicely as he shares his story and talks about how he regained his independence. Such an inspiration!

04 July 2014

Happy Independence Day!

It's difficult for us to imagine today, but back in 1776, the idea of a sovereign people freely choosing to form a government tasked with protecting the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness simply did not exist. Until then, people lived under the oppression of monarchies that ruled by dictate based on birthright.

Drawing from the ideas of the greats of the Age of Enlightenment such as Locke and Montesquieu, our Founding Fathers created a completely new framework for the relationship between the people and their government. Although many countries have since attained liberty in varying degrees, the unique combination of ideas behind our Founding is the basis for the concept of American Exceptionalism.

We could not be prouder to be Americans and are humbled to serve those who defend the United States Constitution and the vision of the Founding Fathers that so many brave Americans have fought and died for.

May we never lose sight of our responsibility to preserve the blessings of liberty for every future generation.

Have a safe and happy Independence Day Weekend!

01 July 2014

"When I have your wounded!"

Major Charles L. Kelly, April 10, 1925 - July 1 1964

"When I have your wounded!" - The last words of DUSTOFF pilot Major Charles L. Kelly, after being told to withdraw from a hot combat area in Vietnam 50 years ago today.

As commander of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance), Kelly assumed the call sign "DUSTOFF." On 1 July 1964 Kelly approached a hot area in Vinh Long Province, South Vietnam to pick up wounded only to find the enemy waiting with a withering barrage of fire. Advised repeatedly to withdraw, he calmly replied to the ground element's advisor, "When I have your wounded." Moments later, he was killed by a single bullet that entered through the open window of his helicopter. Kelly was dead but his "DUSTOFF" became the call sign for all medical evacuation missions in Vietnam. "When I have your wounded" became the personal and collective credo of the gallant DUSTOFF pilots who followed him.

Major Kelly's awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross with two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star Medal (Merit), 2 Purple Hearts, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Army of Occupation Medal (WWII), National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Combat Medic Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, Army Aviator Badge, Parachutist Badge.

Major Kelly was inducted into the DUSTOFF Hall of Fame on February 17, 2001.