29 September 2006

Balad: First Step of a Long Journey Home

Balad Air Base - home of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group - is the first step of a long journey home for many soldiers injured in Iraq.

About half of all WIAs (soldiers Wounded in Action) are able to return to duty within a few days. Others require treatment at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany before being sent on to medical facilities in the U.S. That decision is made by the staff of the Air Force Theater Hospital, part of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group.

Wounded Soldier with a gift from back home - a Soldiers' Angels backpack.

After initial medical treatment upon arriving at the base hospital, the first thing the patients get is a change of clothing, a clean bed with fresh linens... and some gifts from home.

"Today we received 14 boxes from Soldiers' Angels each containing 3 backpacks. Each backpack had personal care items, a small handmade quilt, socks, and other clothing items. I don't have the words to describe to you the feeling I get seeing the incredulous look on their faces when they realize these gifts are from their countrymen."

The Air Force Theater Hospital is the equivalent of a Level 1 trauma center and sees more than 650 patients per month. These patients arrive from Combat Support Hospitals and front-line medical units all over Iraq.

After treatment and evaluation, flight clinic coordinators at the hospital ensure that all the necessary paperwork and clinical care have been completed and that patients are ready to be transported. Some patients need to stay in the hospital for several days until their condition is stabilized before they can be transported.

Mario Pastrano and Arnita Fowler of the CASF, and wounded Soldier with DVD player sent from supporters back home via Soldiers' Angels.

When a patient is ready to be evacuated, the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility (CASF) take over, preparing patients for aeromedical evacuation out of theater and caring for them until their departure from Balad. The CASF staff also is responsible for safely and quickly moving the patients to the flightline and onto waiting aircraft.

"As we were loading the first 3 soldiers on the aircraft, the one who was conscious looked up at the Airmen carrying him and said, "Thanks guys for taking good care of us.""

During the 5 hour flight to Germany, critically injured patients are cared for by the Air Force Critical Care Air Transport Team. Others are transported on litters, and ambulatory patients on "troop seats". Upon arrival at Ramstein AFB, the patients are transferred 5km by ambus to LRMC where they are evaluated and admitted either to the hospital (a Level 3 trauma center) or the MTD outpatient facility.

After a short stay in Germany (3 days to 3 weeks) the patients either return to Iraq or Afghanistan or are flown to a medical facility in the US for further treatment.

Soldiers' Angels is honored for the opportunity to provide a range of comfort items to the medical staff of Balad for their patients on your behalf. If you would like to participate with a donation, please visit the Soldiers' Angels website or email Roger, SA Tactical Medical Support Director.

"The short amount of time it took you to write encouraging words on a card has made an immeasurable impact on a particular soldier/airman/sailor/Marines' life."

Thank you for supporting our Wounded Warriors.

"I want to do one more thing for these young men and women... ", a letter to Soldiers' Angels from a Combat Support Hospital.
Our Medical Warriors in Action, an email from an Air Force CMSgt serving in the 332nd Air Evacuation Wing.

The base at Balad is host to a C-130 squadron that provides intra- and inter-theater airlift, delivering passengers and cargo to bases around the country. The 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing also operates a contingent of HH-60 helicopters that provides combat search and rescue capability for the entire Iraqi theater.

On a monthly basis, Balad logistics readiness experts process 750 Cargo Aircraft, 9,500 tons of cargo and 19,000 passengers making it the busiest aerial port operation in the AOR, and second in all of DOD only to Dover Air Force Base. In terms of aircraft movements, Balad is the busiest single runway operation in DOD and second in the world only to London's Heathrow airport.

An ambulance bus being unloaded from a C-5 in Balad. The "ambuses" are used to transport patients from medical facilities to aircraft. The same ambuses are use in Germany to transport patients between Ramstein AB and Landstuhl hospital.

Air Force Library Fact Sheet, Soldiers' Angels Medical Support Team.
Photos courtesy staff of 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group.

MSNBC's Faces of Courage: SFC Paul Ray Smith

MSNBC will be running a series of 60 second pieces honoring our military Heroes, and the first is about Medal of Honor recipient SFC Paul Ray Smith. You can read about him here and here.

3 things:

1. Watch the piece here. (Thanks to John at OPFOR for uploading to YouTube.)

2. Pass on the link.

3. Email MSNBC. Let them know how much you appreciate these tributes and that you'd like to see more coverage like this.

28 September 2006

Thank You, 68th Trans Co!

For giving Soldiers' Angels the opportunity to help welcome your Soldiers back home to Germany after their deployment to Iraq.

- Angela Whidden, FURG Co-Leader

Welcome Home from all of us at Soldier's Angels - and THANK YOU for a job well done!

26 September 2006

The Littlest Victims of War

From the SA Wounded Team's contact in Balad:

Dear Roger,

Thank you so much for the help. From what I have heard in the past we usually don't see many kids, but lately that has changed. I have been here about 3 weeks and we have had about 9 kids come in.

I talked to the NCOIC of the ICU and he says we are in need of Diapers and Pull ups. Also some toys, a little age specific - we see kids around 3-6. We do get infants too. And we are in need of childrens and infant clothes.

So far 4 of the kids we have treated have gone home, 2 are still in our care and sad to say but 3 did not make it.

I really want to thank you for your past service and supporting us now, I am sure you understand just how much that means to us.

[name redacted]

If you would like to help our military medical staff help their young Iraqi patients, please email me or visit the Soldiers' Angels website to make a donation.


Related post at Blackfive about the Marines working to save innocent lives:

We had some civilians get hit by an IED yesterday as one of the battalion's patrols went by. No Marines were hurt, but once again these people don’t care if they hurt, kill, or maim their own.

The Company Commander, our react force, and Doc and myself with the ambulance ran out once again. We loaded up as many as we could at their hospital that wanted to go.

Read the rest here.

21 September 2006

"I want to do one more thing for these young men and women... "

You may know from this blog that Soldiers' Angels supports our wounded and ill troops medevaced to Germany from Iraq and Afghanistan. But you may not know that support from our Wounded Team begins long before that, at the Combat Support Hospitals in the war zone.

Dear Soldiers' Angels,

My name is JF and I'm a nurse currently deployed to Southwest Asia. I work in a facility that ensures ill and injured troops are flown out of the country to a hospital better equipped to their needs. Many times these brave men and women come to our facility without personal items due to their particular circumstances.

Today we received 14 boxes from Soldiers' Angels each containing 3 backpacks. Each backpack had personal care items, a small handmade quilt, socks, and other clothing items.

It has been an honor for me to make sure these backpacks are given to sick and wounded troops. I don't have the words to describe to you the feeling I get seeing the incredulous look on their faces when they realize these gifts are from their countrymen. It it most definitely tear producing.

The thank you card you filled out was also packed in the box. I try to personally contact anyone who has provided their name and address. Every card we receive makes it way to the pillow of a troop.

I have seen battle-weary individuals wipe their eyes as they read the warm wishes and prayers. The short amount of time it took you to write encouraging words on a card has made an immeasurable impact on a particular soldier/airman/sailor/Marines life.

They aren't always in a position to write their thanks while they are with us so I want to do one more thing for these young men and women...

... to thank you for your support.


Thank you, JF, for giving our wounded Heroes the best of medical care. But most of all, for your love and compassion.

18 September 2006

"But... I'm a Soldier"

"No, let's wait for him. He says he wants to meet you," said the Liaison Officer responsible for non-US coalition patients. "He'll be right out."

A few minutes later The Soldier appeared from a door further down the hall. Hopping on one leg, the other pants leg empty. Using a cane.

"You guys are all alike - you're knuckleheads. Do you know what a knucklehead is?" I ask as I walk towards him.

He smiles and says no. I point to my head and rotate my index finger. "Nuts. You're all nuts. Why aren't you using crutches?"

"This is my training."

I stick out my hand and introduce myself. We make our way back to his room while he tells me about getting blown up.

I give him a backpack, apologizing that it's set up for American Soldiers, with letters from people back home, American flags on the Blanket of Hope, etc.

"But," I continue, my throat suddenly getting tight, "you stood with us, so you're one of us."

The Soldier can't believe it's for him. I tell him that as an American and a civilian, I want to thank him for his service, for defending our way of life, and for protecting us civilians - who are sitting home on our butts doing nothing.

The Soldier stands at the foot of his bed, on one leg, grinning. Head tipped slightly to one side, truly not comprehending why I would say such an outlandish thing.

"But...," he says finally, "I'm a Soldier." As though that would say it all.

As indeed it does.

At The Soldier's request I have not used his name, nationality, or any further description that would reveal his identity. I have spent many hours with The Soldier since this first meeting. He is, quite simply, a true Warrior. His goal is to be the first amputee of his country's Army to return to active duty, and seems to relish what he calls the "big fight" ahead of him to do so. He also wants to retain his various certifications in order to remain with his unit, which would be a first in any Army.

16 September 2006

"La Fallaci": 1929 - 2006

"The moment you give up your principles, and your values... the moment you laugh at those principles, and those values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your civilization is dead. Period."

- Oriana Fallaci in a 2005 Wall Street Journal Interview

Since 9/11, Fallaci had dedicated herself in the fight against "the greatest threat to Western civilization since the Cold War, Islamofascism". Her most well-known and controversial works of this time were The Rage and The Pride (La Rabbia e l'Orgoglio), 2001 and The Force of Reason (La Forza della Ragione), 2004.

From Michael Ledeen's tribute of yesterday:

Lots of people were surprised to learn that she lived as a virtual recluse in New York City, rather than Florence, but America was a big part of her soul. A real freedom fighter has to love America, and she did, just as she hated America when it failed to meet her high standards. Her writings on America were extraordinary; the words she wrote right after 9/11 deserve to be remembered for a very long time:

The fact is that America is a special country, my dear friend. A country to envy, of which to be jealous…and it is that way because it is born of a spiritual necessity…and of the most sublime human idea: the idea of liberty, or better, of liberty married to the idea of equality...

She HAD to live here, you see. Just as she had to die in Florence, where she will be buried in the Evangelical cemetery alongside her parents.

But we shouldn’t be in a hurry to bury her. For the moment, she’s still very much with us. All you have to do is look at the news of the day, replete with the grotesque distortions of Pope Benedict’s thoughtful speech in Germany. Those distortions are driven by one her pet peeves: the politically correct fear of offending Muslims, any Muslims, even those who want us dead and decapitated. She and Benedict evidently hit it off quite well, truly the odd couple, she the lifelong atheist (albeit, in her delightfully paradoxical formulation, a “Christian atheist”) and he the lifelong theologian.

11 September 2006

In Memory of David Wiswall

Shortly after 3pm local time on September 11, 2001 I was at work when the first reports starting coming in that a small plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

David Wiswall was also at work when the first plane hit Tower One. He called his wife Pat, left a message, and then began assisting with evacuation efforts.

His office was on the 105th floor of Tower Two.

Dave, as he was known by everyone at Aon Corporation where he worked as a senior vice president, assisted many of his coworkers flee by ushering them to a stairwell and holding the door open.

In the message to his wife he indicated "he was sure there was a huge disaster and they were going to get out of there."

Wiswall, 54, and his wife Pat lived in North Massapequa, on Long Island. The couple loved to golf. "We were enjoying the empty- nester life," she said, adding that Wiswall also belonged to a weekly bowling league. "He went bowling with friends he knew for many, many years from grammar school," she said.

Her husband was known for his dry wit, and friends looked forward to being with him. "He never told a joke but was one of the funniest people," she said, recalling that he was fanatical about caring for their lawn. "One time, he actually vacuumed the lawn. I think there were a few berries out there he was trying to get."

He and Pat were looking forward to his retiring in about six years so they could move down to North Carolina, where they planned to play even more golf.

"We were enjoying it so much," Ms. Wiswall said. "Just the fact that we were free to go out and do things. It's just another nice stage of life."

Wiswall is also survived by his two children, Amy and Keith.

Sources: Newsday, The New York Times

I am honored to remember David Wiswall as part of D.C. Roe's 2996 Project involving over 3000 bloggers to commemorate the victims of 9/11 on this 5th anniversary.