30 March 2011

From the trenches of big business to the front lines of Afghanistan

Capt. Douglas ‘Doc’ Powell, brigade surgeon assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, left his job as a business executive for Burton Snowboards at the age of 40 to attend medical school and become a doctor for the U.S. Army. Powell, a native of Middlebury, Vt., is now working as a medical doctor on the front lines of Operation Enduring Freedom in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He is currently serving at Camp Nathan Smith in order to oversee operations at the Troop Medical Clinic there. Photo: Sgt. Breanne Pye.

A story of an extraordinary life journey made by an extraordinary man - Dr. (Captain) Douglas Powell, who left his job as a business executive to attend medical school at age 40 and become an Army doctor. Part 1, part 2, and part 3, all at DVIDS.

Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans

A friend of mine with a couple of his buddies. You know who you are - the good looking one ;-)

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate designated March 30, 2011, as "Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day" to honor the return home of our armed service members after serving in Vietnam.

It may have taken Congress 40 years to make it official, but you know that I think of you guys every day. Thank you for your service. Welcome home. And to those who didn't make it home, we'll always remember.

29 March 2011

One last look at a brother

A US soldier looks back at his wounded colleague as he lies inside a Blackhawk helicopter of DUSTOFF Company C, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan on March 28. Peter Parks / AFP - Getty Images.

27 March 2011

3/5 Corpsman recovers at LRMC as 1st MEF transfers command in Helmand

3/5 Corpsman Stuart Fuke, 22, recuperating at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany before being airlifted to Naval Medical Center San Diego for additional surgery. The turnover of command responsibility from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C. took place on Saturday. Photo credit: Tony Perry.

Marines from Camp Pendleton relinquish command of key Afghan territory
Amid praise for a job well done, the Marines from Camp Pendleton on Saturday formally relinquished responsibility for leading the fight against the Taliban in the insurgency's longtime Afghanistan stronghold of Helmand province.

“In February 2010, the Taliban flag flew high here in Helmand,” said Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of the international joint force. “Today, this land belongs to the people of Helmand.”

Haji Abdul Manaf, governor of the Nawa district, was blunt: “This has been a very good year. We want more good years.”

Their comments came at a ceremony marking the turnover of command responsibility from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Progress in Helmand has been costly: 136 Marines have been killed in combat since March 1, 2010 -- 61 of them from Camp Pendleton.

The hardest-hit combat unit was the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which suffered 24 killed in action and more than 175 wounded since relieving a British unit in early October in the Sangin district.

One of the most recent of the regiment's wounded is Navy corpsman Stuart Fuke, 22, of Honolulu, wounded in the thigh during a foot patrol a week ago. A Marine buddy stopped Fuke’s bleeding with rolls of gauze as sniper fire snapped overhead.

In six months of patrols, Fuke, who was on his second tour in Afghanistan, has provided emergency battlefield care to numerous Marines shot by Taliban snipers or wounded by buried bombs.

Fighting the Taliban, Fuke said, “is like fighting ghosts.”

“It’s like the gangbanging school: shoot, shoot and run away,” said Fuke, now recuperating at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany before being airlifted to Naval Medical Center San Diego for additional surgery.

“These guys are quick,” he said. “It’s hit-and-miss, they don’t stand and fight.”

In one skirmish, Fuke had a Marine buddy “die in my arms” after being hit; in another he was able to stem the bleeding and save the life of an agonized Marine who lost both legs and his right arm; and in yet another incident, he watched in horror as a Navy corpsman had his legs blown off.

Marines say conditions in Sangin have changed greatly since fall, with more cooperation from villagers and increasing competency of Afghan security forces.

More bomb-sniffing dogs are being deployed, and the U.S. has advanced technology to catch Taliban fighters or their sympathizers burying bombs under cover of darkness.

But for the Marine grunts and the Navy corpsmen, one thing will remain the same in the coming year: Every foot patrol in Helmand province is perilous.

“You never know when you’re going to step on death,” Fuke said from his hospital bed.

Our best wishes to HM Fuke and ALL of the Darkhorse Wounded Warriors for a speedy recovery! Thank you and Semper Fi.

23 March 2011

The Heroes of Green Ramp

It was soldiers saving soldiers. Soldiers putting out fires on other soldiers; soldiers dragging soldiers out of fires; resuscitating; giving soldiers CPR; putting tourniquets on limbs that had been severed; putting out fires on their bodies, sometimes with their own hands. Anything they could do to care for their buddies that were more seriously injured they were doing. They can't do that without knowing how. They responded the way they would in combat.

- Maj. Gen. William M. Steele, Commanding general of the 82d Airborne Division

The twenty-third of March 1994 was a fitting day for an airborne jump. The skies were clear, with good visibility; the temperature was in the mid-sixties; and the winds were moderate, 4 to 6 knots. The XVIII Airborne Corps, stationed at Fort Bragg near Fayetteville, North Carolina, had scheduled two parachute missions, one in the late afternoon and another in the evening, using aircraft on the adjacent Pope Air Force Base (see Map). Required to undergo prejump exercises within twenty-four hours of taking off, Army paratroopers had assembled at Pope Air Force Base for training in the early afternoon. Units on the day's manifest were the 82d Airborne Division's 504th Infantry, 505th Infantry, and 782d Support Battalion (Main), as well as the XVIII Airborne Corps' 525th Military Intelligence Brigade and 1 59th Aviation Group (Combat) (Airborne).

The paratroopers had gathered on the staging area known as Green Ramp, located west of the southern end of Pope's main runway. ...

Close to 500 paratroopers were on Green Ramp that early afternoon. Many of them were crowded into a narrow corridor formed by the pax shed and the CONEX containers on one side and the snack bar and mock-ups on the other side. More soldiers attended airborne classes, held at the jumpmaster school.

Around 1410 an F-16D Fighting Falcon collided with a C-130 Hercules transport while both tried to land at Pope Air Force Base. The Hercules touched down safely. The F-16 pilots ejected as the fighter plummeted to the ground, ricocheting across the tarmac and sliding into one of the parked C-141 Starlifters.

Both planes exploded in flames, hurling searing-hot metal through the air and spewing 55,000 gallons of fuel onto Green Ramp. The debris-filled fireball, "described by some as 75 feet in diameter," roared through the staging area where the paratroopers were preparing for airborne operations, stopping in the vicinity of the Airborne Gate on Rifle Range Road, which separated Fort Bragg from Pope Air Force Base. The "rolling blaze" became "a swirling ball of death."

From his position just beyond the right end of the pax shed, Capt. Gerald K. Bebber, the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade chaplain, having escaped the fireball, turned to face the training area and saw "a scene from hell."

To his right side were two crushed food vendor trucks, one in flames. One of the vendors was on fire, and a soldier standing over him was trying to put out the flames. The row of mock-ups also was in flames, and burning debris and hot metal were everywhere.

In an effort to return to his own unit's mockup, Bebber moved 25 feet and came across his first victims, two soldiers on fire. While two other rescuers smothered the flames on one soldier, he took off his BDU top and knelt down beside the other casualty to extinguish the flames. But the soldier's uniform top was soaked with fuel, which kept reigniting the fire. Finally, Bebber shoveled sand and gravel from the path that ran along the mock-ups onto the soldier's back and successfully quenched the flames. He tried not to get sand on the soldier's left leg, which flying wreckage had virtually cut off. Bebber remembered hoping that the doctors could reattach the severed leg.

All around the brigade chaplain "people were doing the same thing": rescuing soldiers, using their bare hands and canteens of water to "put out the last smoldering places."

Meanwhile, ammunition exploded, and people shouted to get away. But no one paid attention. "It seemed irrelevant," Bebber said. Soldiers were responding the way they were trained to do in combat.

Bebber became aware of the dead around him. Some were badly burned; others were "horribly cut and torn"; a few had no apparent injury but were just dead. About 10 feet away one soldier was "already the death-color of gray," although someone was attempting to revive him with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

The Episcopal priest, who had entered the Army nine years before the tragedy, moved from group to group, speaking to the injured and helping to lift the wounded into the tactical and personal vehicles that began arriving to evacuate them to Womack. Other chaplains joined Bebber in praying and listening to the accounts of those who felt like talking.

The immediate response to the disaster on Green Ramp produced numerous heroes, while demonstrating the benefits of readiness, training, and contingency planning. Combat lifesaving courses, common task training, and quick evacuation undoubtedly saved lives. Firefighters, ambulance crews, and medevac teams answered the alerts with professionalism and dispatch, reflecting, in most respects, wellplanned schemes. The esprit de corps of the 82d Airborne Division, which had already been good, reached new heights of camaraderie and understanding because of the accident.

Im Memoriam - The Heroes of Green Ramp

Capt. Christopher D. Dunaway, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Capt. Kenneth J. Golla, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Staff Sgt. Charles W. Elliott, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Staff Sgt. Daniel Camargo, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Price, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Staff Sgt. Harry L. Momoa Jr., Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Staff Sgt. Mark G. Gibson, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Staff Sgt. Waddington Sanchez, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Staff Sgt. Alan D. Miller, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Staff Sgt. James C. Howard, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Sgt. Alexander P. Bolz, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Sgt. James M. Walters Jr., Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Sgt Gregory D. Nunes, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Sgt. Vincent S. Strayhorn, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Sgt. Gustavo Gallardo, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Spc. Martin R. Lumbert, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Spc. Matthew J. Zegan, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Spc. Sean M. Dixon, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Spc. Bee Jay Cearley, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Pfc. Andrew J. Jones, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Pfc. Paul B. Finnegan, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Pfc. Tommy Caldwell, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Pvt. Mark E. Fritsch, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Pvt. Phillip J. Harvey, Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment

Source: U.S. Army Center of Military History

With thanks to Dean for the remininder about a day he will never forget.

22 March 2011

"I gave my limbs for this country and I wouldn't take them back for a second."

In a terrific follow up to an earlier story about Sgt. J.D. Williams, who said he was "glad" he stepped on the IED (because that meant one of his buddies didn't), we now have a video interview with J.D. and his wife Ashlee. J.D.'s recovering by leaps and bounds, taking his first steps on prosthetics, and making some very big plans.

Wounded Soldier has Big Plans
By Sarah Gravlee

Story Published: Mar 21, 2011 at 7:57 PM MDT
(Story Updated: Mar 21, 2011 at 7:57 PM MDT )

BILLINGS - More than 10,000 members of the U.S. Military have been injured in Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001; 48 of those are from Montana.

Sgt. J.D. Williams of Harrison was one of then. Five-and-a-half months into a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan something went horribly wrong.

"I noticed blood on my fingers, I saw I was missing both my legs and my right arm," he said and a SKYPE interview from San Antonio, Texas.

On October 9th at about 8 a.m., Williams stepped on a 70-pound improvised explosive device.

"it was the most beautiful morning I can remember in Afghanistan," he said. "The birds were chirping. It wasn't too hot, wasn't too cold. I just looked up at the sky. I was thinking God gave me a beautiful day to die."

He did just that. Doctors told him he was dead for 30 minutes, but a cardiac massage and the thought of his young daughter brought him back.

"I didn't want her not knowing who her real father was," he said.

One week after the accident, JD was reunited with his wife and child.

"You can't prepare yourself for something like that," his wife Ashlee Williams said. "The doctors tell you to be strong and not break down, because that's the last thing he wants to see. When I got to that door, there was no breaking down. I was so excited to see him."

Five months later, Williams is improving by leaps and bounds.

"I was held at a high standard in the army," Williams said. "When I got injured my goal was to be the best injured soldier. My wounds are something I'm proud of. I gave my limbs for this country and I wouldn't take them back for a second."

Williams is impressing his therapists with his ability to use a prosthetic arm. He said he's doing things with his arm at record speed.

"Being from Montana, You gotta love to hunt," he said. "I started shooting my bow with my prosthetic arm. Almost anything you can think of, I can do."

Just last week, Williams took his first steps on short prosthetic legs. His therapist said he should be walking on long legs in about a month and a half -- about the same time he plans to become the first triple amputee to ride a bull.

"I'm riding it to build other soldiers' hopes up," he said. "My platoon... for them to see me bull riding it's gonna build their hopes up."

Williams plans to return to Montana this summer. He thanks all who have participated in fundraisers to help his family financially through this rough time. Ashlee is keeping a blog of his progress. You can find that website by visiting kulr8.com and clicking on connections.

J.D.'s CaringBridge page can be found here.

Thanks to Montana's KURL8.com for continuing to follow J.D.'s story!

20 March 2011

The Lord is my Shepherd

This small, well-worm Book found recently in the outpatient barracks. Fortunately, a name was written inside enabling return to its owner. Photo: Soldiers' Angels.

16 March 2011

Wounded Warrior shows true grit to stay in the fight

Sgt. Than Naing, an infantryman stationed with Wounded Warrior Battalion East in Camp Lejeune, N.C., tours the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor here Sept. 10. Naing recently survived a gunshot wound to the chest during his tour in Afghanistan as a squad leader with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, earning his second Purple Heart in four years. An immigrant to New York City from Rangoon, Burma in 1997, Naing joined the Marine Corps in 2004, earning his U.S. citizenship shortly thereafter. Photo: Maj. Paul Greenberg.

Meet one of your Marines, Sgt. Than Naing.

Wounded Warrior shows true grit to stay in the fight
By Maj. Paul Greenberg, Wounded Warrior Battalion-East

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (March 14, 2011) — In September 2001, Than Naing was cooking hamburgers in a fast-food restaurant in New York City and taking prerequisite classes part-time at the City College of New York in hopes of pursuing an engineering degree.

A 25-year-old recent immigrant from Burma, Naing had no knowledge of the Marine Corps and little interest in current world events. He could not identify Iraq or Afghanistan on a map.

That all changed after 9/11.

“Many people in America don’t appreciate democracy,” said Naing. “In Burma, there is no freedom of speech. If you say something bad about the generals that run the country, they will put you in prison for many years. That is why I joined the Marine Corps after 9/11. I was so happy to have the chance to live in a democracy, and I wanted to defend it. I saw the people dying in the Twin Towers. I felt like I had to give something back, because America gave me such a good life.”

Although Naing went to the nearby Marine Corps recruiting station to enlist just a week after 9/11, it took him more than two years of studying English as a Second Language while living and working in New York City to get his English fluency to a degree of proficiency to enable him to pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

He passed the test and headed to Parris Island, S.C. for boot camp in May 2004.

“I didn’t know a lot about the U.S military, but my friend told me that the Marine Corps was the best (branch of service). And I wanted to be one of the best,” said Naing.

After graduating from recruit training, Pvt. 1st Class Naing was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, in October 2004.

Within a year he found himself walking the streets of Fallujah as a rifleman. During this tour, he learned from friends back in the States that his mother had passed away in Burma during his second month in Iraq. However, Naing opted not tell his command, “Because they would want me to go home, and I did not want to leave my fellow Marines in combat, and there was nothing I could do for my family at that time.”

Naing has not gone back to Burma since.

In 2006 he went back to Iraq for a second tour with 1/6, this time in Ramadi.

After several months of hard fighting during the height of the insurgency, Naing was shot in the left shoulder during a firefight Oct. 19, 2006. After being stabilized at the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, he was transported to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. While at Bethesda, Naing pinned on corporal meritoriously.

Naing arrived back at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in January 2007 and was assigned to the Injured Support Unit, Wounded Warrior Barracks. During his 18 months of recovery with Wounded Warriors, Naing saw the organization evolve into a full-fledged Marine Corps unit, which was designated Wounded Warrior Battalion East.

He used his time constructively, mentoring junior Marines, continuing his university education and completing the process of applying for U.S. citizenship, which he eventually earned in May 2007.

“When I got my U.S. citizenship, I felt like a new man again on the earth,” said Naing.

Naing’s spirit of determination was quickly noted by the Injured Support Unit staff, and he was quickly given leadership responsibilities and encouraged to actively engage his fellow Marines to ensure they stayed on the right track to recovery and transition. He was awarded NCO of the quarter in the summer of 2008.

“I was impressed by his perseverance to get back on full duty, to reenlist, and truly get back into the fight,” said Sgt. Maj. Joel Collins, who served as the battalion sergeant major from 2008 to 2011.

“Even after he was placed back on full duty, he was still not in fighting shape,” explained Collins. “A collective effort from the staff, his fellow wounded warriors, and mostly from his own intestinal fortitude was he able to get back into shape to reenlist and get back to Fleet Marine Forces…. Naing is not afraid of a little heat. He is countable.”

With gritty determination, Naing rehabilitated his shoulder through extensive physical therapy, regular workouts in the gym with his buddies, and countless hours in the base pool. He pinned on the rank of sergeant in January 2009 and achieved his goal of returning to the operational forces that spring.

“I just wanted to get back to the Fleet and deploy again,” said Naing. “I joined the Marine Corps to be an infantryman and to go to combat. In (my previous tour), one of my best friends was killed by an IED. I wanted to go back to Iraq and fight in his honor.”

After passing his physical fitness test with a first class score, Naing, now 32 years old was assigned to Company I, 3rd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment as a squad leader.

Within a year, Naing found himself in the mountains of Afghanistan, leading his squad in almost daily combat in the summer heat in Marjah City, Helmand Province.

On June 13, 2010, Naing was checking the perimeter security around a vehicle checkpoint which his squad had set up near Marjah. A firefight broke out, and an Afghanistan National Army soldier in Naing’s squad was killed almost instantly by enemy fire. Then a Marine was hit in the arm. While directing his squad’s fire and calling in a situation report, Naing was shot in the chest by a Taliban fighter with a machine gun.

Although he was in and out of consciousness from loss of blood, Naing continued to call in reports to his platoon sergeant while still under fire. His corpsman dragged Naing into a ditch to patch up his wounds, and he was evacuated by helicopter in critical condition to a hospital at Camp Leatherneck.

“All I can remember is that I was screaming in the helicopter, because it was so painful,” said Naing.

For bravery under fire, Naing received the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement medal with Combat “V.”

He was again evacuated to Bethesda. He arrived back at Camp Lejeune in September 2010 for his second tour with Wounded Warrior Battalion East.

“It’s definitely positive to see someone like him being an inspiration to the other guys, going through and fighting his own battles and keeping his attitude so positive all the time. He inspires others. He literally keeps the morale up for especially the junior Marines in the company,” said Sgt. Nathaniel Harris, a Wounded Warrior who knew Naing when they served together at 1/6 in 2005. They reconnected at Company A, where Harris has been a patient here since February 2010, after being severely wounded in Afghanistan.

Once again, Naing is pushing his own limits in the gym and at the pool, determined to return to full duty and deploy overseas for the fourth time.

“In my mind, I keep thinking about being a warrior. I think tactically; that’s how I am. The Marine Corps is perfect for me. I’m not a paperwork kind of guy. I just want to get back into the fight.”

If he has his druthers, Naing will go to university full-time under the Meritorious Enlisted Commissioning Program and become a Marine Corps infantry officer. He would be the first officer candidate in recent Marine Corps history to have two purple hearts upon commissioning.

“I believe that leadership begins with your example for others to follow. The exceptional example of Sgt Naing is extremely rare and very inspiring,” said Capt. Dennis Nichols, whose command of Company A, Wounded Warrior Battalion East, has spanned both of Naing’s tours here.

“He is a living example of tenacity and determination that he has exhibited now on two separate occasions both being very challenging and often times grueling,” said Nichols. “I feel that he is a prime example and will do extremely well as an officer.”

Wounded Warrior Battalion East is headquartered here with Companies A and B, which care for about 200 wounded, ill and injured Marines.

The battalion also supervises several hundred Wounded Warriors at seven subordinate detachments at hospitals throughout the country from the National Capitol Region to San Antonio, Texas.

The stated mission of Wounded Warrior Battalion East is taking care of wounded, ill and injured Marines and their families. With a full-time staff of more than 200 Marines, Sailors and civilian professionals, battalion staff ensures the care of our Wounded Warriors throughout the recovery and transition process.

14 March 2011

Warriors in Transition: A Story of Resilience - SSG Shilo Harris and Kathreyn Harris

"Warriors in Transition: A Story of Resilience" was created by the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, March 2011.

On February, 19, 2007, during his second deployment to Iraq, the vehicle SSG Harris was traveling in was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED), killing three Soldiers, wounding the driver, and leaving SSG Harris with third degree burns on 35% of his body.

So that Shilo could recover at home, Kathreyn became Shilo's primary caregiver spending up to six hours a day on his wound care. Additionally, she was mom to their daughter and stepmom to his three sons. During his recovery, she became an Advocate for the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) to support other wounded warriors at Brooke Army Medical Center.

WTC Commander BG Darryl A. Williams encourages you to take time and get to know Shilo and Kathreyn Harris who are "not unlike most of the 8,000 severely wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families the Army supports through our Warrior Care and Transition Program. They each have a story to tell, a story of resilience".

13 March 2011

"He's a trooper, he's a hero, he's our guy."

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pins the Purple Heart medal and a Combat Action Badge on the chest of U.S. Army Spc. Quinn Jensen of Logan, Utah, March 7 at the Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield. Jensen is a member of 744th Engineer Company, 54th Eng. Battalion, a reserve unit from Ogden, Utah. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Todd Pouliot, Task Force Falcon)

Three Army reservists from Utah received Purple Hearts from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week at the Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield in the Parwan province. One of them was Army Spc. Quinn Jensen, whose father Paul Jensen recounts being notified that his son had been wounded.

Jensen said he learned about the incident when his phone rang Sunday afternoon.

"I got the call from hell," he said, explaining how he thought it was a telemarketer. "I was going to tell them to quit calling me on Sunday afternoon. I picked up the phone and said, ‘Hello?' The man goes, ‘This is the U.S. Army. Your son Quinn has been in an accident, and all we know right now is he's in serious condition."

Jensen said nightmarish thoughts followed but he heard from his son the next day and the soldier's spirits were high.

"He sounds better than we do," said Jensen. "He's a trooper, he's a hero, he's our guy."

Jensen said his son even lightened the mood, saying what bothered him most about the ordeal was that he chipped his tooth. The Cache Valley native has had a strong interest in the military and said he wanted to enlist about five years ago. However, family restraints kept him home but he later signed up for the Army Reserve.

"He wanted to go serve his country," his father added. "He said, ‘Somebody's got to do it, it might as well be me.'"

Specials and Discounts for Soldiers' Angels and Military Personnel

Many wonderful companies generously offer discounts to servicemembers and Angels, or donate a percentage of their sales to Soldiers' Angels, so please check them out when purchasing cooling gear, coffee, flowers, jewelry, books, clothes, food, and many other items.

Vendors include ProFlowers, Vision Strikeware, Devil Dog Brew, Dollar Days, Heat Relief Depot, and more. See the list of offers here and support Soldiers' Angels when you shop!

10 March 2011

Report shows steep increase in amputations in 2010

SOURCE: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center | The Washington Post - March 6, 2011.

Data assembled by John B. Holcomb, a trauma surgeon and retired Army colonel, and two physicians at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center was presented Tuesday to the Defense Health Board, a committee of experts that advises the Defense Department on medical matters. The report showed a sharp increase in amputations, and particularly multiple-limb amputations, in 2010 versus prior years. The steepest increase occurred over the last four months of the year.

Doctors and nurses treating soldiers injured in Afghanistan have begun speaking of a new "signature wound" - two legs blown off at the knee or higher, accompanied by damage to the genitals and pelvic injuries requiring at least a temporary colostomy.

Twice as many U.S. soldiers wounded in battle last year required limb amputations than in either of the two previous years. Three times as many lost more than one limb, and nearly three times as many suffered severe wounds to their genitals. In most cases, the limbs are severed in the field when a soldier steps on a buried mine.

The increase in both rate and number of such wounds is most likely a result of the troop surge in Afghanistan that began last spring, combined with a counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes foot patrols in villages and on farm compounds. It was noticed by military surgeons in Afghanistan last fall and quantified in late December by a team of surgeons at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, where virtually every evacuated soldier stops en route to the United States.

"I've seen these types of injuries before. What I haven't seen is them coming in over and over and over again," said John B. Holcomb, a trauma surgeon at the University of Texas at Houston and retired Army colonel who helped identify the trend.

The report prepared by Holcomb and two surgeons at Landstuhl has circulated at the highest levels of civilian and military command in the past two months. An abbreviated version was provided to The Washington Post with Pentagon permission.

It shows that from 2009 to 2010, the proportion of war casualties arriving at Landstuhl who had had a limb amputated rose to 11 percent from 7 percent - a 60 percent increase. The fraction suffering genitourinary (GU) injuries increased to 9.1 percent from 4.8 percent - a 90 percent increase.

The actual number of patients with the injuries increased even more drastically.

In 2009, 75 soldiers underwent amputation and 21 lost more than one limb. In 2010, 171 soldiers had amputations and 65 lost more than one limb. GU injuries increased from 52 to 142 over the same period.

In mid-October, a Washington Post reporter attended a weekly videoconference in which military medical personnel from around the world discuss the previous week's severe trauma cases. Of the 13 patients on the agenda, many had lost limbs, and three had lost both legs and both testicles.

Medical staff at Landstuhl also noticed a rise in severe genital injuries last fall.

"In my 21/2 years here, it's just started," intensive-care unit nurse Kathryn Gillespie said in late October.

Most critically injured soldiers arrive at Landstuhl unconscious or heavily sedated. Some regain consciousness for the first time since the battlefield during their two- or three-day stay. Gillespie described a typical awakening.

"The first thing we let them know is they're in Germany. We tell them, 'You're hurt, but you're okay.' Then they want to do a scan of their body. They ask, 'Is my junk all together?' They want to check their 'package.' Then they check their arms and legs. This all happens probably within 15 minutes of being off sedation."

Many patients, minds clouded by illness and medication, "discover" their injuries more than once during the stay. Each time, they ask nurses and doctors to explain what happened and what lies ahead.

From a related article:
Holcomb, who spent two weeks at Landstuhl in December and is a former head of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, said he had heard of "unwritten pacts among young Marines that if they get their legs and genitals blown off they won't put tourniquets on but will let each other die on the battlefield."

Richard H. Carmona, who was U.S. surgeon general from 2002 to 2006 and is now on the board, said the information was "very disturbing."

Why amputation-requiring injuries increased so much in recent months isn't entirely understood. It is partly a function of tactics that emphasize more foot patrols in rural areas. Some people have speculated the mines may be constructed specifically to cause the devastating wounds.

The two Washington Post articles can be found here and here.

09 March 2011

Return to Afghanistan

Lt. Gen. John Kelly met with members of his son’s Marine unit in southern Afghanistan. 2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, 29, was killed by an improvised explosive device last November. (Fox News Photo)

FOX News' Jennifer Griffin reports from Afghanistan.

It is a journey that no father should have to take. But for Lt. Gen. John Kelly, whose son Robert was a Marine with the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Regiment, it was a necessary trip.

2nd Lt. Robert M. Kelly, 29, was killed instantly when he stepped on a land mine last November while leading his Marines in a tough fight to win control of a Taliban sector in southern Afghanistan -- a fight his unit eventually won.

General Kelly is the senior most member of the US military to lose a son in battle. He is also Defense Secretary Robert Gates' newly appointed senior military aide. Gates arrived in Afghanistan on Monday for a surprise visit. For Kelly, it was his first trip back to Afghanistan since his son was killed, back to the platoon that his son led.

Even a Marine would have a hard time fighting back tears. Members of the press corps certainly did.

The battalion gave the general the last photo taken of his son on the morning he was killed, signed by each member of his unit. He showed it to me as we boarded an Osprey to leave Helmand.

"He loved the Marine Corps, he really did," Kelly could be heard telling the Marines huddled around him. "He had a lot of friends."

Twenty-nine members of the 3rd battalion of the 5th regiment have been killed since October, and 175 wounded.

During the visit, Secretary Gates also checked in with the MEDEVAC units at Camp Leatherneck.

Two years ago when he heard that the so-called "golden hour", known in Iraq as the standard time it takes to get wounded to a medical facility, was actually the "golden two hours" in Afghanistan, he demanded the military do better. So he deployed more helicopters, personnel and mobile medical units.

When Gates began that effort to decrease the amount of time it takes to move the wounded to a military hospital, the average time in Afghanistan was about 1 hour and 41 minutes. Now, two years later, the golden hour is on average just around 40 minutes.

Even as weather prevented planes from taking off and landing at Bagram air base on Monday, Gates' C-17 military transport plane waited on the tarmac, delayed as Medevac units took off into the fog. They were the only military planes other than Gates' authorized to fly that day.