The News Journal.
Writer William H. McMichael and photographer Suchat Pederson are reporting from Afghanistan for The News Journal.
A ride out of Afghanistan these troops didn’t want
Bagram Airfield, 2:00 a.m., Dec. 5
We read about those killed in the Afghanistan war, but rarely hear about the wounded. Seeing them up close and personal brings home even more deeply the price many U.S. troops have paid during the 11-year-old conflict.
Early Wednesday morning, local time, 35 troops boarded or were loaded aboard a C-17 cargo jet reconfigured for what’s called the aeromedical evacuation mission. Eighteen were able to walk with unseen wounds or ailments. Another 17 were borne on litters.
The last two were testament to the remarkable advances in trauma medicine the war has wrought. These were the most grievously wounded. Each was moved by six large airmen struggling to lift the patient and the equipment that was keeping them alive. One, unconscious, his face wrapped and visible limbs heavily bandaged, was literally covered with gear: a ventilator, an IV pump, a heart monitor, a sequential compression device, and more.
As the AE crew specialists secured the litters to the stanchions jutting from the deck, doctors from a Critical Care Air Transportation Team hovered over the men to ensure their continued stabilization. Less-seriously injured litter patients were tended by the AE crew’s two flight nurses and three medical technicians.
Within minutes, the upload was complete and the ramp raised, sealing the huge jet for flight. Next stop: Ramstein, Germany, and a trip to nearby Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. As is always the case – the Defense Department does not announce the names of those wounded and never acknowledges them unless they accompany a death in an attack that makes the news – the fates of those aboard the jet, even those most seriously hurt, will likely never be known – unless they don’t make it.
Check back with their blog often for updates.