11 July 2007

24 Hours

Desert Flier, a Flight/Trauma nurse near Ramadi:
Sitting in EVAC with Tim watching the Buick Open on the Armed Forces Network. Not a big golf fan, but I'll take any distraction at this point.

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

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

"Army or Marine?"


Tim and I walk out to patient receiving. Waking up some key staff, including some 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 out of four casualties arrives so far. Soldier with gunshot wounds to his extremities. Medics, corpsman, and physicians go right to work; no surgical intervention needed, and he will be fine. Humvee looks worse than the soldier: turret is torn to pieces, but the gunner is OK. Two more casualties finally arrive via Humvee...also OK. More gunshot wounds, but all stable. No surgery needed; we start making arrangements for MEDVAC.

The battle began at approximately 9:20 p.m. Saturday when Coalition Forces were attacked with small arms fire from two trucks near their position. U.S. Soldiers returned fire and pursued the fleeing attackers with the help of Army AH-64A Apache helicopter gun ships, Marine F-18 Hornet and AV-8B Harrier fighter jets.

Helicopters killed at least one insurgent and wounded another, and destroyed the two trucks, later determined to be loaded with weapons, ammunition and explosives.

Desert Flier:
Fourth casualty is critical. GSW [Gun Shot Wound] 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.

The 36th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs Office, the story you're familiar with from Blackfive:
Upon landing, the co-pilot/gunner helped load the injured Soldier into the front seat without further injury. Despite the heavy small arms fire and surface-to-air fire events in the area, the co-pilot/gunner strapped himself onto the left side of the aircraft and hunkered down on the wing. The pilot flew to Camp Ar Ramadi medical pad, where emergency medical personnel provided treatment.

Desert Flier continues:
I'm right in the middle of looking at the detainee's chest film, when a detonation and subsequent deep bass of the concussion wave knocks the wooden window covers back. My initial thought: "mortar attack was 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.

"VBIED" cracks over the radios. My initial thought was wrong, but somehow doesn't matter when the results are the same: casualties....

Truck-borne IED has taken out a local bridge. Small arms fire coming from the back gate. The few remaining staff running to Charlie Medical from church service and the barracks.

New insurgent tactics recently include attacking Anbar infrastructure. This is the second local bridge targeted over the past few weeks. A communications tower was targeted last month. This attack was coordinated with several others in Anbar throughout the day, including another bridge in nearby Fallujah.

Around 2 p.m., extremist forces again attacked with machine gun fire, grenades and a suicide vest. Coalition Forces responded with small arms fire and grenades, killing at least one insurgent. Helicopter gun ships and fighter jets provided aerial surveillance and engaged multiple enemy positions, including the destruction of an enemy bunker complex with precision guided munitions.

Desert Flier:
The rest of the afternoon was spent on standby as more casualties arrive. Another abandoned VBIED was blown up by an Explosive/Ordnance platoon near the bridge. Not sure if the driver was found, or what happened to him.

At about minute 7 of BG Bergner's briefing today we find out how the driver was recruited, smuggled into Iraq via Syria, and what happened after that.

From Bill Roggio:
U.S. Army forces, with the help of Iraqi police, beat back an attempted al Qaeda in Iraq assault on Ramadi on June 30 and July 1. At least 23 insurgents "affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq" were killed in a series of raids against Donkey Island, which sits about 3 miles south of Ramadi. "Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces received reports that a significant number of anti-Iraqi forces had gathered on the outskirts of Ramadi to stage a series of large scale attacks," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "The group, affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq, intended to regain a base of operations in Al Anbar with suicide car and vest bomb attacks."

Desert Flier:
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 just an unspoken rule that no one talks. Thirty minutes of silence amongst one another. 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. 200 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.

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