31 October 2008

Petraeus Assumes Leadership of U.S. Central Command

New head of the U.S. Central Command, U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus covers his heart as troops applaud during change of command ceremonies Friday morning Oct. 31, 2008 at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. Petraeus takes over the command from U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

30 October 2008

"This blanket is proof that there are still many back home that love and support us."

Received by one of our sewers from a former patient at Landstuhl:

My name is SGT ( ... ), and I just received one of your beautiful blankets. I want to thank you for not only your support, but the time that you put into showing how much you care.

This blanket is proof that there are still many back home that love and support us.

I know that it will be used well, and when I am done with it, I will pass it on to my son, so that he'll know that there are others out there that support his daddy too.

Again, I appreciate your support and say thanks from all of us.

I'd like to add my thanks to all of our blanket donors. If you've been thinking about doing this, remember you don't even have to know how to sew! The fleece blankets with the knots tied all around the edges are very popular among the guys ;-)

29 October 2008

Important changes to PAC eligibility

Wounded troops’ pay overhauled

By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. — Wounded servicemembers whose combat-related injuries are diagnosed after they return home can keep their special pays while hospitalized, Defense officials said Tuesday.

The move is one of the major changes that are part of the Pay and Allowance Continuation Program, or PAC, which allows wounded servicemembers to continue to collect special pays after they are hospitalized.

Previously, wounded servicemembers’ injuries had to be diagnosed in the combat zone for them to receive the compensation.

Now servicemembers are eligible for PAC if they for injuries that were not detected in the combat zone, such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"In the event that you return from the combat zone and experience an injury that you were not hospitalized for previously, the PAC is payable," said Tim Fowlkes, assistant director of military compensation.

In May, PAC replaced an earlier program that paid wounded servicemembers $430 per month to cover their hardship duty pay, hostile fire pay and the incidental expense portion of their temporary duty per diem allowance, officials said.

PAC expands the compensation for wounded servicemembers to include other special pays to which they are entitled, such as jump pay and dive pay, said Virginia Penrod, director of compensation.

The program also covers troops injured by hostile fire in injuries not deemed combat zones, such as South and Central America, officials said.

In another change, wounded servicemembers may receive PAC for up to a year after they are hospitalized, with further extensions possible, Penrod said.

Under the old program, wounded servicemembers lost the extra money as soon as their Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance benefits kicked in, prompting some servicemembers to avoid taking TSGLI, she said.

Wounded servicemembers who were compensated under the old program were transitioned to PAC on May 15, Penrod said. The program is not retroactive.

28 October 2008

Daddy's home!

SA Germany volunteer Jessica (note the t-shirt) with family. Hubby Mike has been gone for a while participating in a JTF - East training exercise, as you may remember from this post Welcome home, Mike!!

OORAH, Zach!

Some of you will recall meeting Cpl. Zach Briseno.

Zach remembers seeing the bones sticking out of his arm after the blast.

But, incredibly, he didn't notice his feet were gone until shortly before the flight to Germany.

Well, guess what Zach did on Sunday?

He competed in the Marine Corps freakin' Marathon.

U.S. Marine Cpl. Zachary Briseno of Texas, who lost both legs in an IED attack in Iraq in 2007, prepares to compete in the hand chair race. Photo: Joe Gromelski / S&S.

27 October 2008

Delivering justice

Two successful cross-border operations yesterday. Good to hear we're becoming more agressive in moving against those responsible for the deaths and injuries of US service members and innocent civilians while hiding just across a border.

Unmanned Predator aircraft carried out a strike in South Waziristan, Pakistan near the Afghanistan border on Sunday. According to reports, senior Taliban leader Haji Omar Khan was among those killed.

And US helicopters flew members of Task Force 88 five miles over the Iraqi border into Syria where they "decaptiated" an al Qaeda network which funnels fighters, weapons, and money into Iraq. Al Qaeda leader Abu Ghadiya was killed along with his entire senior leadership.

Brett Winterble discusses these and other operations with Bill Roggio at Covert Radio today.

25 October 2008

Angels watching over my boy

Jeremy at Landstuhl hospital with Soldiers' Angel and nurse CDR Chris Kirstein-Blackburn, USN.

Dear Soldiers’ Angels,

My son was seriously injured on May 31st, 2008 by an IED in Afghanistan. He called us at 2am on June 1st. Going back to sleep of course was not to be so I logged onto my computer to send out prayer requests for him.

I also emailed SA and asked them to contact his adopted Angel so she would not be sending him packages and mail. Patti [founder of SA] immediately sent me a reply and forwarded my email to MaryAnn in Germany.

By 9am that morning I not only received an email from MaryAnn but she called me from Germany! She provided me with general information about the medevac process, what to expect in terms of timing, etc. What a wonderful phone call!

The most awesome thing she did though was to contact Chris of the SA Germany team and asked her to visit Jeremy! Chris visited him more than once, took him a backpack filled with much needed supplies, presented him with a beautiful Quilt of Valor AND took pictures of him! My heart still leaps when I look at the pictures she emailed me. It was so comforting getting to see him and to know that Angels in Germany were watching over my boy!

Shortly after our arrival at the hospital in Ft. Gordon, GA, Soldiers' Angel Carla came to check on us. Jeremy's room was sweltering hot so she went out and bought a fan, among other things. That fan was used 24-7 for months! She was so cute and sweet and really brightened up our day! She had a long drive to get to us but we really appreciated her visit. My guys would have loved it if she could have visited daily. :-)

Later, during one of my darkest moments, MaryAnn put me in touch with yet another Angel named Carren whose husband had been wounded in Iraq. What a sweetheart! She talked to me for hours and I felt so good afterwards. She recommended websites and books to read. I can't tell you how much it helped to speak with someone who has been through all this.

Jeremy continues his recovery at Ft. Gordon and has had a total of 17 surgeries on his right leg. Today he called to tell me that he had walked all day without his crutches! He is doing so well that he will soon transition to an outpatient.

Soldiers’ Angels has been such a huge blessing to Jeremy and to us. Words cannot express our love and gratitude for these amazing Angels.

With Kindest Regards,

Jill & Joe Smith

PFC Jeremy Smith, 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne (Air Assault) receiving his Purple Heart in July accompanied by his TC, SSG Showers (right). Jill said the ceremony was "very patriotic, moving and there were not too many dry eyes by the end of it. I am so proud of our military and of being an American!!"

24 October 2008

Forever in our hearts

Marine LCpl Ricky Slocum, 2/2/85 - 10/24/04

“It is, in a way, an odd thing to honor those who died in defense of our country, in defense of us, in wars far away. The imagination plays a trick. We see these soldiers in our mind as old and wise. We see them as something like the Founding Fathers, grave and gray haired.

But most of them were boys when they died, and they gave up two lives – the one they were living and the one they would have lived. When they died, they gave up their chance to be husbands and fathers and grandfathers. They gave up their chance to everything for our country, for us.

And all we can do is remember.”

- President Ronald Reagan

23 October 2008

They came in peace

Beirut bombing victims, left to right, Lance Cpls. Burham Matthews, Lovelle Moore and Mike J. Balcom talk to reporters at the Landstuhl Army hospital. Stephanie James / Stripes file photo.

25 years ago.

Operation: Wrapped in Holiday Spirit

Angels Aim to Wrap the Troops in Bipartisan Holiday Spirit

Non-profit leads Americans in putting aside political passions and ideologies to focus on patriotic support of American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines by sending 180,000 US packages to deployed troops for the Holiday season with the message, "We haven't forgotten you, we support you, and we believe in you!"

Pasadena, CA (PRWEB) October 22, 2008 -- During this season of intense political passions and partisanship, non-profit Soldiers' Angels offers Americans of all persuasions the patriotic opportunity to help ensure every service member in Iraq and Afghanistan receives a holiday gift of love and gratitude, through the 2008 Wrapped in Holiday Spirit care package drive. The shipping deadline is rapidly approaching, and additional donations are urgently needed.

During this time of political division, Americans can reach across our divides to support the troops. This December, an estimated 180,000 men and women will be serving overseas, away from their families for as much as a third or fourth tour in a combat zone. Wrapped in Holiday Spirit helps ensure each deployed hero is touched by the generosity of Americans the Holiday season.

"Together as a country, we can make a difference in a soldier's winter Holiday. Soldiers' Angels is proud to offer America the chance to directly impact those who serve our great country by giving them a Wrapped in Holiday Spirit care package full of love and support," says Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldiers' Angels.

This is no ordinary care package. In addition to the traditional gifts and treats such as a mug, hot chocolate, snacks, socks and a hand-written card, each Wrapped in Holiday Spirit package will contain a very special patriotic blanket symbolizing the embrace of the American people. The blanket embodies the message that Americans continue to believe in them, and will help them face the cold nights of a desert winter.

Beyond standard donations, Soldiers' Angels also offers Americans the opportunity to complete their holiday shopping by making a tax-deductible donation in honor of friends, family, co-workers or teachers, etc. A donation of just $18.75 will give a soldier a Wrapped in Holiday Spirit care package, and Soldiers' Angels will provide a beautifully printed certificate for the donor to present as a gift in commemoration of the honor donation.

Soldiers' Angels is a non-profit providing assistance to active duty soldiers and their families, continuing support for veterans, and encouragement to the wounded and families of the fallen. Through more than 20 different teams and programs, the volunteer-based organization offers care packages, personalized letters, comfort items and a wide variety of other support to American service members and their families. Visit www.soldiersangels.org for more information.


22 October 2008

Lashed to vehicle, wounded SAS soldier fought on

More details emerge about the September 2 ambush in Oruzgan province during which nine Australian SAS personnel were wounded. One sustained what were originally life-threatening injuries and five were seriously hurt.

Lashed to vehicle in Afghanistan, wounded SAS soldier fought on

DESPITE being shot twice during an ambush in Afghanistan, an SAS soldier lashed himself to the front of his patrol vehicle so he wouldn't be left behind if he passed out from loss of blood and kept on fighting.

The Digger is expected to be recommended for a high level bravery award.

Suffering from serious upper body wounds, the soldier struggled on to the front of his SAS long range patrol vehicle (LRPV) and, under heavy fire, used a rope to attach himself firmly between the vehicle's bull bar and radiator.

Once he was secured, and there was no chance that he would fall off if he fainted, he picked up his rifle and resumed firing at the enemy during a two-hour fighting withdrawal.

The Digger, who cannot be identified, faded in and out of consciousness, emptying several magazines as volleys of enemy rounds and rocket propelled grenades, rained down around him. ...

A source told The Courier-Mail the Digger was now "up and about" and would recover fully from his serious gunshot wounds. His heroic deeds will be recognised when he is recommended for a high level bravery award.

h/t HotAir

Gunny Pop: Once a Marine

Thanks to Jules Crittenden's post today, I was reminded to order my copy of Nick Popaditch's recently released book, Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander’s Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery.

Here's the book trailer.

From the book's web site:

April 9, 2003: An AP photographer captures a striking image seen around the world of a Marine tank commander smoking a victory cigar in his tank, the haunting statue of Saddam Hussein hovering in the background. Popaditch is immortalized forever as “The Cigar Marine.”

April 6-7, 2004: The tanker fights heroically in the battle for Fallujah and suffers grievous head wounds that leave him legally blind and partially deaf. The USMC awards him with a Silver Star for his valor and combat innovation.

April 18, 2004: “Gunny Pop” comes home to face the toughest fight of his life—a battle to remain the man and Marine he was. This is the central drama of Nick’s inspiring memoir, Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander’s Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage, and Recovery.

Also at Nick's site, incredible video footage of Nick and the other wounded Marines exiting their tank just moments after it was hit by an RPG. Viewer discretion advised.

Update from the comments. Ted Savas of Savas Beatie, Nick's publisher, tells us that there are still some signed copies of Once a Marine available through their web site. You can also contact them if you have a group and would like Nick and/or his wife April to come and speak.

New USO "Warrior Center" opens at Landstuhl

William Timken, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, hands out a coin to Drew Dix, as fellow Medal of Honor recipients Gary Beikirch, left, and Robert Howard look on at the conclusion of the USO's Warrior Center grand opening ceremony Tuesday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The Warrior Center is a 2,400-square-foot facility located between two Military Transient Detachment buildings with gaming rooms, an Internet cafe and kitchen. Photo: Ben Bloker/S&S

21 October 2008

Happy Birthday, Patti

Founder of Soldiers' Angels, America's Favorite Mom, recipient of multiple honors and awards, Angel to many thousands of service members, and someone whom I am proud to call friend.

Love you, Patti.

19 October 2008

Further developments in first-line combat medicine

ARLINGTON, Va. — All soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan will get new bandages to treat life-threatening bleeding, replacing the "hemcon" bandages they use now.

Those hemcon bandages represented a revolutionary development just 3 years ago.

Created by researchers at the Oregon Medical Laser Center using a research grant from the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the 4-inch by 4-inch chitosan dressing is well suited for the battlefield and a vast improvement over gauze and pressure bandages currently used to stop extreme bleeding.

Over nine of 10 combat deaths occur before evacuation, and a little more than half of those are caused by uncontrolled hemorrhage. For centuries, battlefield wounds have been dressed with gauze, which can soak up blood but is incapable of stopping bleeding - bleeding which can result in death within minutes.

Now, the next generation of hemorrhage-controlling field dressings are here:
The Army has ordered more than 270,000 packages of Quik-Clot Combat Gauze and 17,700 packages of WoundStat, said Lt. Col. Sean Morgan of the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army.

Combat Gauze, made by Z-Medica Corp. in Wallingford, Conn, is gauze with a hemostatic agent while WoundStat, made by TraumaCure in Bethesda, Md., is a granular substance meant to mix with blood to form a seal over wounds.

The Army plans for every soldier to have a package of Combat Gauze while every combat lifesaver issued a combat lifesaver bag will have three packages of Combat Gauze, and all combat medics will have three packages of Combat Gauze and two of WoundStat, Army officials said.
The products are intended to be used in cases of life-threatening bleeding where tourniquets cannot be applied, said Col. Paul Cordts of the Army surgeon general’s office.

Tests have shown that the two products do much better at stopping bleeding than the hemostatic agents that soldiers have now, said Dr. Bijan Kheirabadi, a physiologist with the Army Institute for Surgical Research.

17 October 2008

Warriors... In their own words

On November 7th, actor Kelsey Grammer will host a screening of the film Warriors... In Their Own Words at The Skirball Center in Los Angeles to honor the men and women who have kept us safe and who have protected our freedoms. For more information about the film, to purchase tickets for the screening, or to purchase the DVD, visit their website.

16 October 2008

"This could be my brother"

Package from Air Force News about the Mississippi Air National Guard's 172nd Airlift Wing. Their mission originates in Jackson, Mississippi, flies to Ramstein AB in Germany to pick up medical supplies and personnel from the 445th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, then continues on to Balad AB in Iraq where patients are loaded on to the aircraft for medical evacuation back to Germany.

The video gives a sense of the tremendous effort around a single medevac mission which of course involves many, many additional personnel not shown here. Now imagine that over 50,000 patients have been medevaced out of the Iraq theater alone since 2003, and you get a feeling for the magnitude of the total Air Force achievement over the past five years.

I suppose that could sound like a conveyor belt-type of operation, but for these Airmen, it's not.

"You're airlifting mothers, brothers, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters of people and you relate to your own family... it's like... this could be my brother."

Thanks to these Airmen for treating our guys like family, and for all they do.

See also:
Aeromedical Evacuation from Balad, Iraq to Ramstein Germany
Critical Care Air Transport: Balad, Iraq to Ramstein, Germany

15 October 2008

Rog's Medics

My buddy Roger is Soldiers' Angels POC for the CSHs, Aid Stations, and other medical personnel throughout Iraq and Afghanistan (his blog is here). This video shows some of the medics Soldiers' Angels has had the honor of supporting over the past 2 years.

Oh, and nice music, Rog :-)

14 October 2008

First class graduates from the new Iraqi Air Force Flight School

The proud new pilots.

Iraq celebrated a milestone yesterday when the first class graduated from the new Iraqi Air Force Flight School.

If you haven't been following this, one of their instructors is our friend and Vietnam veteran BillT of the Castle, who of course took part in the graduation ceremony.

One of the kids nudged me when a DV [Distinguished Visitor] started getting passionate in his address, and was interrupted by a standing ovation:

“He is saying that for the first time in our history, we are not doing things for one man, but we are doing it for all the people of Iraq. He is saying the US has showed us how, and we must not forget when we thank God every day, we must also ask him to bless the US.”

Read the whole, wonderful story over at the Castle with many more photos. Thank you, Bill, for being not just an instructor but also a mentor to the young men of the new Iraqi Air Force.

13 October 2008

From a Soldier's Mom

SPC Charles Smith, 2-502nd Inf Reg, 101st Airborne (Air Assault), wearing his Soldiers' Angels t-shirt while recovering at Landstuhl hospital.


My son, PFC (at the time), now SPC Charles J Smith, was in Germany after he was injured by an IED in Iraq. I would like to say Thank You to the Soldiers' Angels for being there for him.

I have attached a picture of him in his "Soldiers' Angels" T-shirt. I had no idea even who the Soldiers' Angels were, as when I got this pic sent to me online, I could not figure out what it said, or meant.

Now I do know both.

I appreciate so much what you did for him, and would love to personally thank the person who was with him. He is now medically retired from his injuries, but is doing quite well. If you didn't know what had happened to him or see the scars left behind, you would never know.

But I know, and my heart still cries for him and I thank God every day for his safe return to us.

I have now joined the Soldiers' Angels to help others as my son was helped.

Again, thank you to the Soldiers Angels' in Germany... from the bottom of my heart.

Susan Davis

Welcome to SA, Susan! Please give Charles a big hug from us :-)

Thank you to all of SA's donors for supporting our mission at Landstuhl and making a difference - one Soldier (and one Soldier's Mom!) at a time.

Operation Goatherd

More reporting by SPC Shadix on the 173rd ABCT's recently completed deployment in Afghanistan. This is seriously funny. Previous here.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

12 October 2008

The DJ Emery Highway

The highway renaming ceremony in Centre County, PA on October 9, 2008. Photo courtesy of Jamie Jones.

Last Thursday a 5-mile section of State Route 26 in Centre County, PA was named after our Hero DJ! He drives along the highway at least once a week on the way to therapy and says it feels "weird" to see his name on the signs ;-)

Here's a short video story from the local TV station about the renaming ceremony. Doesn't DJ look GREAT?

DJ and "special guest", daughter Carlee. Photo courtesy of Jamie Jones.

From the news story:

“In the hospital, when I found out I lost my legs, [Carlee] was one of my biggest concerns. How was I going to provide for her, and just be able to go in the yard and play with her and stuff. But really now that I’m healthy we can do everything. There's nothing that me and her can't do together.”

Nope, nothing you two can't do together, DJ. Congratulations!!

Click to read more stories about DJ here at SAG.

09 October 2008

Phoenix firefight

Some interesting vids coming out from the paratroopers of the 173rd now that they're home from Afghanistan. They didn't exactly have much time for filmmaking downrange. Anyway, this took place at Firebase Phoenix, but there's no indication of date. Crank up your sound for full effect ;-)

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

06 October 2008


Posted on LiveLeak by an Airman with the title: "My Dogs greeting me after returning from 14 months in Iraq".

Awww... :-)

Seen at Ace of Spades HQ

04 October 2008

15 years ago...

Thanks to COB6 at Blackfive for the reminder.

Photo of the Day

The 'outlaws' of 2nd Platoon, from the Ladies of Liberty blog.

You go, girls!

Medevac training at Fort Hood

1st Sgt. David Falk, the senior non-commissioned officer and flight medic for Company C, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, guides Soldiers from the 154th Transportation Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), away from a medical evacuation helicopter during medevac training on Oct. 2, 2008, at Fort Hood, Texas. Photo and story: Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade.

The training, conducted by members of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, covered everything from calling for a medevac to loading and unloading patients from the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, according to Staff Sgt. Christopher Orange, a flight medic and one of the instructors with the 227th.

Orange, a Sarasota, Fla., native, told the Soldiers some of the most common mistakes people make when calling for a medevac are providing the wrong location on the map or the wrong number of patients.

He explained they would rather have Soldiers overestimate the number of critically wounded than underestimate it.

Orange also talked to the Soldiers about the proper procedures to identify their location to the medevac crews using smoke, brightly colored panels and other techniques. ...

Sgt. Ramon Alcantara, a Boston native and driver, 154th, said the training was a real good experience that was very similar to the real-world events of a medevac. ...

Alcantara said his favorite part of the training was having the helicopters at the site, which allowed for the Soldiers to feel the physical strain of carrying one of their fellow Soldiers about 150 feet on a litter, into the wind of the turning helicopter and actually loading them into the aircraft.

Soldiers from the 154th Transportation Company, 180th Transportation Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), carry a simulated casualty to a medical evacuation helicopter during medevac training on Oct. 2, 2008. The training is in preparation for the company's upcoming deployment. Photo and story: Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade.

03 October 2008

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s Acute Lung Rescue Team: The "Delta Force of military medicine"

Here's more from Steve Mraz on Landstuhl's special lung team mentioned here. Although the vast majority of critical patients can be safely medevaced from theater by the highly specialized personnel of the Critical Care Transport Team, there are exceptions. That's when this team goes into action...

Unique mobile Landstuhl medical team brings expertise downrange

It’s like the Delta Force of military medicine.

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s Acute Lung Rescue Team travels downrange to treat and transport the most severely wounded and ill troops, who would otherwise be unable to be put on a medical evacuation flight.

The team’s expertise and specialized equipment, including advanced breathing machines and a device not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, set it apart from the military’s standard aeromedical evacuation and Critical Care Air Transport Teams. Only an extremely small percentage of wounded require the Landstuhl team’s services, but of the 19 times it has been called upon, 10 calls have come in the last year, said Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Fang, a Landstuhl trauma surgeon.

Established in November 2005 by husband and wife Air Force Col. Warren Dorlac and Lt. Col. Gina Dorlac, the "ALRT team" (pronounced "alert") is one of a kind in the military and doesn’t have an official designation. Its personnel are doctors, nurses and specialists who generally work full-time in Landstuhl’s intensive care unit.

The Dorlacs, former Landstuhl doctors, are considered "the mom and dad" of the lung team, Fang said. Fang and Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Patrick Allan, a critical care pulmonary physician at Landstuhl, are the ALRT team leaders.

The Landstuhl team came about because doctors estimated there were a handful of wounded troops each year who could not be evacuated because of their grave conditions, Fang said.

"These 10 or 12 patients a year have to stay in Balad, Baghdad, Bagram, consume tremendous resources because they’re sick and they’re very labor extensive," Fang said. "And they just stay there until they get better — then they could be moved — or they die, which is not what we want."

When the Landstuhl team travels, it brings a surgeon, a pulmonary critical care doctor, one or two nurses and one or two respiratory therapists.

"You’re not sitting there on alert, waiting to go," Fang said. "You’re occupied in your job and then you get the call. You got to prepare. You got to fly down there. You got to stabilize the patient and then fly back. It is typically a 24-hour, constantly awake mission."

The Landstuhl team has been called 19 times, with 17 patients coming from Iraq and two from Afghanistan. Most suffered trauma wounds, but three were treated for eosinophilic pneumonia (see related story).

Because eight of the missions were canceled due to improvement in the patient’s health, or deaths prior to take off, the team has gone downrange 11 times. One patient died with the team at his bedside, but the 10 patients evacuated by the team have a 100 percent, seven-day survival rate.

"At least all these patients, we get them back to the States and back to their families, which is part of our goal — to get them back home as best as we can," Fang said.

02 October 2008

Increased cases of rare pneumonia strain among deployed troops

And it's being linked to new smoking habits downrange.

LANDSTUHL, Germany — Military doctors are seeing a resurgence of a rare and sometimes fatal type of pneumonia that is striking young troops who started smoking while deployed downrange.

In the past five months, six U.S. servicemembers serving in Central Command’s area of responsibility have been diagnosed with acute eosinophilic pneumonia, or AEP. While the exact cause of the illness is unknown, 27 of the 36 troops who have contracted AEP since March 2003 had recently picked up the habit, according to a July 2008 information paper from the Army’s Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine.

Also, three-fourths of those troops came down with the illness while serving in Iraq. Other cases have originated with U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Kuwait, Qatar and Uzbekistan.

Two troops have died as a result of the disease.

On average, the AEP patients are around 22 years old, said Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Patrick Allan, a critical care pulmonary physician at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

AEP is noninfectious and strikes within 2 weeks of starting smoking. It also strikes quickly:
In one to four days, patients may notice shortness of breath, a dry cough, chest pain and non-specific abdominal pain. Within 24 hours after going to a clinic, patients typically require supplemental oxygen or have to be put on a breathing machine, Allan said.
In addition to the two servicemembers who died from complications of AEP, there have been others who were near death before recovering, doctors said. Landstuhl sent its specialty lung team downrange to treat three troops with AEP. The patients were so bad doctors had them on highly technical breathing machines to keep them alive.

A medical alert about AEP was issued in Iraq as early as February 2007. But because it is so rare there was not enough evidence to suggest a link with deployments.
Now, young patients arriving at Landstuhl’s intensive care unit with pneumonia-like symptoms will immediately have their lungs examined for AEP, Allan said. Whereas "standard" pneumonia is usually treated with powerful antibiotics, AEP is treated with steroids that suppress the body’s immune system.

The treatment is highly successful, once AEP is diagnosed. But doctors still have no explanation for the disease's current resurgence.

01 October 2008

Lifestyles of the Rich and FOBulous

Cpl. Stephen McGinnis follows up his barbershop vlog by showing us how Marines at Camp Ramadi are living. He shows his room, the showers, and bathrooms.