31 March 2009

OMLT Patrol

U.S. Army Maj. Jim Hickman and Latvian Army Maj. Juris Abolins, patrol alongside members of the Afghan National Army through the village of Nishagam, Konar province, Afghanistan, March 18, 2009. Hickman is assigned to the Observer, Mentor, Liaison Team in Regional Command - East. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller.

Medical Airlift Warriors

MOSUL, Iraq - Staff Sgt. Edna Buckelew, 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight medical technician, gives a thumbs-up after checking on a patient Feb. 27. Airmen in the 332nd EAEF transport servicemembers wounded, injured or sick from remote locations to a higher level of medical care. Buckelew is deployed here from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., and is a native of Avon, Ind. U.S. Air Force photo: Senior Airman Elizabeth Rissmiller.

Read about the Airmen of the 332nd EAEF who, together with those of the 777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, fly throughout Iraq to pick up patients requiring a higher level of treatment than can be provided at their location.

The plane takes off again. [Maj. David] Rodberg and his team work through the flight in the confines of the shaking aircraft due to turbulence from the leading edge of rough weather. Through rain and even a sandstorm the same rusty color of Mars, they care for the sick and injured. When dust from the storm begins to come into the cargo area, they move to give those in their care face masks.
After several stops, and hours later, the C-130 lands back at JBB [Joint Base Balad]. A small army of medical personnel from the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility and volunteers are waiting with stretchers and buses. Through an orchestrated and rehearsed process, the wounded warriors are removed from the aircraft and put on the buses and driven off to the AFTH.

"I love this mission," said Rodberg. "It's about these guys and getting them to more definitive care and back to their loved ones."

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Members of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron's Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight; Airmen from the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility; and volunteers wait with stretchers and buses to off-load patients here after an aeromedical evacuation mission Feb. 27. The 332nd EAEF transports servicemembers wounded, injured or sick from remote locations to a higher level of medical care. U.S. Air Force photo: Senior Airman Elizabeth Rissmiller.

30 March 2009

Four more 173rd Paratroopers receive awards for actions during the battle of Wanat

Sgt. Michael T. Denton is awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States during a ceremony held at the Airborne Walk on Eubanks Field Monday morning. Others receiving awards were Capt. Matthew R. Myer, third from right who was also awarded the Silver Star and Sgt. 1st Class David L. Dwzik, far right, who was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device. Photo: Shannon Szwarc.

Myer, Denton and Dwzik were members of Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team during the battle of Wanat on 13 July 2008.

"It's for my men. They fought very hard that day. They fought for each other and I'm just glad to be here to represent them," SFC Dwzik said.

SPC Aaron Davis is honored with a Silver Star for his actions near Wanat, Afghanistan on 13 July 2008. Photo: KLTV.

In a separate ceremony at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, Spc Aaron Davis was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in the same battle. View the short video here.

"To me, everybody in my unit was extraordinary soldiers, and we survived extraordinary combat situations, and we just went out and took care of business," said Davis. It was last July, in northeast Afghanistan, Davis' unit was ambushed in what turned out to be savage close quarter combat.

"We were surrounded by 200 something militant fighters," said Davis. "We took nine casualties, 27 wounded," said Davis. Davis saved the lives of three fellow soldiers, then while wounded himself, kept firing.

"I decided right there either I was walking off that battlefield, or they were putting me in a body bag," said Davis. "I couldn't leave my guys. I couldn't leave my boys." It earned him the purple heart, and the silver star. Davis says his bravery was inspired by his fellow soldiers.

"The people around me were made of stone," said Davis. "They weren't going to break." Davis was wounded twice in Afghanistan, suffering damage to his right eye. He's scheduled to be promoted to sergeant and will be stationed at fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

For Gallantry in Action

"It was some of the bravest stuff I’ve ever seen in my life, and I will never see it again because those guys... well, normal humans wouldn’t do that. You’re not supposed to do that — getting up and firing back when everything around you is popping and whizzing and trees, branches coming down and sandbags exploding and RPGs coming in over your head... "

- SPC Tyler Stafford

Yesterday, the family of Cpl Jon Ayers was presented his posthumous award of the Silver Star for his actions near Wanat, Afghanistan on 13 July 2008.

Bruce McQuain attended.

The auditorium was packed. The Patriot Guard lined the room. Old members of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (from my era) were on hand. So were Cpl Ayer’s comrades. His mother had decreed (in a motherly way) that this ceremony not be a memorial service but, instead, a celebration of his life. And that’s precisely what it was. Speaker after speaker talked about Jonathan, his life prior to the Army, the fact that he was the commander of the JROTC unit at Shiloh High School and that the military seemed always to be in his future.

His former company commander, who will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony at Ft. Benning tomorrow, talked about the fact that had it not been for Jon Ayers, he wouldn’t have the honor of standing on that stage addressing Ayer’s family. His mother, Susan, talked about the son she’d lost but was so proud of the man he’d become. And his father brought the house down with a poignant yet humorous remembrance of his son. After the presentation of the Silver Star to the family, the family was the first to leave and then other relatives. When the soldiers who had served with Jon rose to walk out, the entire auditorium stood and applauded them.

16 Sky Soldiers from Chosen Company of the 1st of the 503 Airborne Infantry battalion lost their lives during their tour in Afghanistan. Over 60 of them were awarded Purple Hearts. 14 Silver Stars. One Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to a member of the company [SSG Erich Phillips]and one is pending. And one soldier from the company has been nominated for the Medal of Honor.

Update: Bruce's follow up story at Blackfive.

29 March 2009

The strongest tribe

Robert Kaplan (author of Imperial Grunts and Hog Pilots, Blue Water Grunts, among many others) writes this line in a dispatch about Afghanistan in the Atlantic:

"The side that wins here will be the one that emerges in the eyes of the rural inhabitants as the strongest tribe... "

Sound familiar?

Also, straight reporting and analysis of the administration's newly-announced strategy for Afghanistan at The Long War Journal.

27 March 2009

Amputee Pilot Completes Third Deployment

Maj. Alan Brown, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, is a amputee C-130 pilot deployed from the 187th Air Lift Squadron, Wyoming Air National Guard, Cheyenne, Wyo. Major Brown had lost his leg in a hunting accident 10 years ago, before the accident had been flying for five years. It took Major Brown seven years to regain his flying qualifications but before he could get back into the cockpit, he had to do a testimonial flight to make sure he was not a liability. He is finishing up his third deployment since the accident. Photo by Senior Airman Erik Cardenas.

Before the hunting accident Major Brown had been flying for almost five years. It took another seven to get back in the saddle with the military.

"In my mind I need to be deployed with my buddies. We've been training and flying together for years. It's not an option to stay home while they're here taking on the mission," the major said. "Flying is in my blood. It's what I do. And besides, I believe in what we're doing in Afghanistan."

He admits flying is different with a prosthetic.

"As a pilot, using your feet is second nature," he said. "I just had to learn how to operate in a different way after the accident."

The one thing the major is reluctant to talk about is how he's helped others in his situation. He takes every opportunity to encourage other amputees there is life after a lost limb.

"This isn't about me and what I've accomplished. I made a big mistake. There's no one to blame for this but me and I don't want to stand out," Major Brown said. "Being comfortable with my situation gives me a chance to answer questions other amputees may have on what they'll face."

On a recent trip to Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C., he visited many veterans facing the future without a limb.

"I just wanted to answer any questions they had," he said. "Coming home and not knowing what the future holds can be overwhelming."

He emphasized how impressive it is that the military has taken a wider approach with amputees in light of the recent increase in those losing limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

26 March 2009

Leap into the great unknown

Six years ago the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade dropped into Bashur, Iraq, opening a northern front in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Here's a video about that jump, beginning with almost 1000 Sky Soldiers lining up with their C-17s on the runway in Aviano, Italy.

The weather was bad at takeoff and the drop zone muddy after weeks of heavy storms.

And while the jump was good, the aircraft "jumped long", spreading the brigade out. As the sun rose, it revealed LGOPPs - "little groups of pissed-off paratroopers" - strung out along the impossibly muddy and almost 10,000-yard-long drop zone. LGOPPs form when paratroopers link up with whomever is near them, regardless of unit, and move as a group to the assembly points.

This well-known photo shows how they looked after the jump.

Eventually, over 2000 troops and equipment, including 5 M1A1 tanks, 5 Bradley fighting vehicles, 15 armored personnel carriers and 41 Humvees were airlifted to the field.

Last year I met a guy from the 173rd at Landstuhl here for a non combat-related medical condition. When he told me he was at the end of his second OEF deployment and had also done the drop into northern Iraq I was like, "OMFG! Let me give you a hug!!"

Greyhawk has much more on this stunning and historic moment with lots of photos and another video: Part 1, and Part 2.

25 March 2009

Operation Enhanced Mobility

Capt. Jesse Stewart, commander of Troop C, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, carries a disabled Iraqi girl, March 23, in the Rusafa District of eastern Baghdad. The girl’s mother carried her daughter for two miles before almost collapsing near the wheelchair distribution site.

What a great story.

Iraqi Kids Receive New Wheelchairs: Iraqi National Police, U.S. Paratroopers Team Up for Delivery in Rusafa

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Eighty-two Iraqi kids found a new reason to smile, thanks to efforts from Iraqi national police officers and U.S. Paratroopers in the Rusafa district of Baghdad, March 23.

Dubbed Operation Enhanced Mobility, officers from 2nd NP Division and Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, presented the new wheelchairs to disabled children during a humanitarian effort in the northeast section of the city.

The wheelchairs, donated by Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids, are adjustable and designed for growing children. Officials said that unlike low quality wheelchairs, which often do not fit a person correctly, these wheelchairs will adjust with the child’s growth thus allowing the chairs to be used for several years.

Brad Blauser, founder of Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids, said individuals and organizations in the U.S. donated the funding that made the delivery of pediatric wheelchairs possible.

More than half of the wheelchairs donated during the day were funded by 10-year-old Ben Werdegar, of Woodside, Calif. Ben heard about the program online in February 2008 and decided he wanted to help the children of Iraq.

“Ben decided he would play his guitar and raise money for the Iraqi children on the streets of San Francisco,” said Blauser. “Since that time, Ben has played most weekends for more than 52 weeks, raising over $13,000 to help the children of Iraq. He deserves a huge amount of recognition for his commitment and dedication in helping disabled Iraqi kids.”

Blauser founded the organization in 2005 at the request of military officials in the city of Mosul after Soldiers observed children dragging themselves on the ground due to birth defects such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida and has since given away over 800 wheelchairs all over Iraq.

The wheelchairs, designed by ROC Wheels in Bozeman, Mont., are designed for rough terrain. Each wheelchair is valued at $3,500 and funded entirely through donations. The U.S. government ships the wheelchairs to Blauser overseas for free.

“This was an excellent opportunity to show the population how the government of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces are working together to provide for the people they represent and protect,” said Capt. Jesse Stewart, the commander for Troop C, 5th Battalion, 73rd Cavalry Regiment.

Blauser hopes he can start to manufacture the wheelchairs in Iraq in order to help more disabled children and help the local economy. Blauser said that making the chairs locally is important; shipping them from the U.S and getting them on the ground in Iraq can take around four to six months.

“I can only distribute a few hundred wheelchairs per year because of limited manufacturing capacity,” said the Dallas native. “This is why it's so important to get manufacturing going locally if I'm really going to make significant progress in Iraq in helping disabled kids get the wheelchairs they need.”

Blauser added his goal is to produce 50,000 wheelchairs over the next five years to give to needy children in the Baghdad area. The long-term goal is to have every disabled child in Iraq provided with a free pediatric wheelchair, regardless of their ability to pay.

The combined forces plan to donate additional wheelchairs to needy children in the weeks to come.

Compare this with the disgraceful lies and propaganda served up by the likes of CODEPINK.

Innovative brain therapies offer hope to injured troops

Some very encouraging news, seen in today's Dawn Patrol at the Mudville Gazette.

Innovative brain therapies offer hope to injured troops

by Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

3/24/2009 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Innovative therapies that have assisted previously comatose patients regain consciousness may be incorporated on a greater scale to treat troops diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries, a brain injury expert said here March 23.

Dr. Philip A. DeFina, chief executive and scientific officer at the not-for-profit International Brain Research Foundation Inc., in Edison, N.J., said that, over the past four years, electronic brain stimulation, oxygen-induction, drugs and other therapies were used to bring 43 people, including five injured Soldiers, out of minimally-conscious or vegetative states.

Dr. DeFina, an Army veteran, is also the chief consultant for the brain injury program at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, a for-profit hospital in West Orange, N.J. He was one of several civilian and military guest speakers who attended the Reserve Officers Association-sponsored seminar here on mental health care.

The prognosis for recovery for the five injured Soldiers was "close to zero," Dr. DeFina said, before they underwent the treatments at the Kessler institute.

"The brain heals," Dr. DeFina said, noting there are "different levels of improvement" among patients who'd formerly been minimally conscious and/or unresponsive.

After treatment, some people "wake up and some people can communicate," Dr. DeFina said. Other people, he said, may be able to perform simple tasks or return to work.

"So, we have different levels of the ability to recover," he said.

And, applying such innovative therapies to patients with mild to moderate forms of traumatic brain injury, he said, produces "dramatic results."

Congress has set aside about $6.4 million in Fiscal 2009 appropriations funding, Dr. DeFina said, so that the foundation can conduct continued research and development of the new therapies in cooperation with military health care organizations.

"We're in the process of accessing those funds," he said.

The foundation has developed close relationships with several Defense Department healthcare components, Dr. DeFina said, including the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, headed by Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Loree K. Sutton.

"Within the last year, we've had probably about 30 military doctors from the Army and Marines come visit Kessler to look at the program, including General Sutton," Dr. DeFina said. "We've briefed them, we've given them formal presentations on all the science, and then showed them the patients that are there.

We've previously reported on hyperbaric oxygen treatments being offered to vets with TBI and PTSD by Dr. Paul Harch, an LSU Health Sciences Center emergency medicine professor. See here for more information about the pilot study.

Many more resources and information about oxygen therapy can be found at my cyber friend Carlo Lingiardi's blog as well. Carlo suffered a traumatic brain injury in an automobile accident and has been collecting information on innovative treatments ever since.

Germans, Americans compare notes on PTSD programs

Reinhold Robbe, ombudsman of the German Parliament for the German army, right, talks with Capt. Monica Offenbacher-Looney, commander of the Medical Transient Detachment, during a recent visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Robbe was touring the hospital to see how U.S. doctors handle post-traumatic stress cases. The German military has seen a significant rise in PTSD cases in recent years. Photo and story: Marcus Klöckner/S&S

German Army PTSD cases on rise

The number of German army soldiers being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder has tripled in the past two years, echoing a rise in such cases among the ranks of U.S. soldiers.

While their numbers still pale in comparison to reported cases of PTSD in the U.S. military, 245 German soldiers were treated for the disorder last year, up from 83 soldiers in 2006, according to statistics recently released by the German Defense Ministry. Nearly 14,000 U.S. soldiers were treated for PTSD in 2007, the most recent figures available.

There are about 3,400 German army troops in Afghanistan, where most German PTSD cases originate, the Deutsche Welle news service reported on its Web site. About 62,000 Germans have been stationed in war zones in the past three years, but the German army, in general, has not gone through as many combat situations as the U.S. military. That is one of the reasons why there is such an increase of PTSD cases in the German army.

In light of the increase in cases among German soldiers, Reinhold Robbe — the ombudsman of the German parliament for the German army — toured Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to see how U.S. doctors are dealing with the disorder.

Robbe said he came away deeply impressed after his five-hour visit.

The U.S. military has more experience in treating soldiers with PTSD because America has been involved in several wars over the past decades, he said.

"The U.S. government provides financial aid to the soldiers the German army can only dream of," Robbe said. "But, we also have to consider that the U.S. society does have a different relation to the military and the soldiers than we in Germany because of our World War II history."

Robbe also has a personal connection to the disorder, he said.

His father suffered from PTSD when he returned home from World War II. He died because of the problems the disorder caused, he said.

"I have to confess that there are certainly emotions involved, and this is one of the reasons why I want to help the soldiers who are confronted with PTSD."

A German Soldier shared his experience, which began in Kosovo in 2004.

"I worked a 60-hour shift, and at the end, I was burned out completely," he said in a telephone interview. "I went to a M.A.S.H. unit to visit an Italian soldier who got hurt.

"I saw all these wounded policemen, soldiers, civilians, young children, women and men," he said. "Then I saw this old woman, I think she was 90 or so. Her face was covered with blood and you saw someone must have beaten her brutally. Our eyes met and there was this look in her eyes asking me: ‘Why have you not done anything (to help me)?’ "

It took about a month for the effect of that day to hit him, [former German Army Captain Andreas] Eckert said.

"I had loss of hearing within a very short period of time," he said. "The doctor asked me if I had gone through a trauma, and I told him about it. He sent me to psychiatry and PTSD was diagnosed."

That was in early 2005. That incident changed his life, he said. He suffered panic attacks and had trouble sleeping. Basically, his life was turned upside down, he said.

In addition to fighting the problems associated with the disorder, he also was faced with the fact that some people close to him didn’t understand what he was going through, he said.

"My wife supported me greatly. She informed herself about PTSD," Eckert said. "But my father, also a former soldier, thought I was pushing it too far.

"Often he’d say something like: ‘When will you get back to work again? Do you not think that it is enough?’ "

Today, more than three years later, Eckert said he feels a lot better. Nevertheless, the battle is still not won.

Six more Paratroopers honored for actions during the battle of Wanat

Silver Stars
Sgt. 1st Class Erich Phillips
Sgt. John Hayes
Spc. Jeffrey Scantlin

Bronze Stars with ‘‘V’’ device
1st Lt. Aaron Thurman
Sgt. Hector Chavez
Spc. Tyler Hanson

Six more Soldiers of Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade were recognized for acts of valor during the 13 July 2008 attack on Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler near Wanat, Afghanistan.

Six Vicenza soldiers honored for acts of valor in Afghan battle

Nine soldiers from the company were killed that day fending off the attack, and that’s all those honored Friday really wanted to talk about.

"They need to be remembered," Hayes said. "We’re not interested in being spotlighted. But the fact that we lost so many of our friends. ... It’s important that all of our stories be told."

Read the rest here.

There have been many prior awards for actions during this battle, more will follow, and some previously awarded are in the process of being upgraded.

SFC Erich Phillips is also the recipent of a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during the Ranch House attack of 22 August 2007.

24 March 2009

Medal of Honor Day 2009

The Medal of Honor has been awarded only 3,448 times since the Civil War, and just 98 recipients are living today.

One of them, Col. Robert Howard, has written a special guest column for Stars and Stripes. Read it here.

And here's a little bit about Col. Howard:

As one of America's most decorated soldiers, Col. Robert Howard served five tours in Vietnam and is the only soldier in our nation's history to be nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor three times for three separate actions within a 13-month period.

During Vietnam, he served in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) and spent most of his five tours in the Special Operations Group, which ran classified cross-border operations into Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. These men carried out some of the most daring and dangerous missions ever conducted by the U.S. military.

Wounded 14 times in 54 months of combat duty in Vietnam, Robert Howard was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, The Silver Star, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and eight Purple Hearts.

19 March 2009

Different styles, but only one way down

A U.S. paratrooper jumps from a C-130E aircraft with arms tightly in front of his body and feet together and forward during a static-line jump with Bulgarian paratroopers during Operation Thracian Spring 2009. In its third year, the exercise gives the U.S. and Bulgarian military opportunity to interact and train together. U.S. and Bulgarian paratroopers performed daytime and nighttime jumps during the exercise, getting a chance to use each other’s aircraft and share techniques. Photo and story: Jennifer H. Svan / S&S

On the Footfalls of Giants

Six years ago, the future began.

Thanks to the U.S. Military, President George W. Bush, and (most of) the Iraqi and American people, this is Iraq today. (The ABC report above is a MUST SEE.)

Oh, and by the way, Soldiers' Angels has about 1000 soldiers like the one above waiting for adoption. Doesn't take much. Just a big heart and a care package a month.

Poster created by Chris of Military Motivators using this image.

18 March 2009

Overnight Mission in Zabul

U.S. Army Spc. Stephen Highberger, left, and Pvt. Charles Joiner sit in a patrol base on an overnight mission near Forward Operation Base Lane in Zabul province, Afghanistan, March 13, 2009. Highberger and Joiner are assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini.

The thanks of a grateful nation: Going AWOL on VA Health Benefits

Update - this just across the wire:

American Legion Commander Praises Obama's Change in Plan

WASHINGTON, Mar 18, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) - The leader of the nation's largest veterans organization applauded President Obama for dropping his plan to bill private insurance companies for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries.

We are glad that President Obama listened to the strong objections raised by The American Legion and veterans everywhere about this unfair plan," said National Commander David K Rehbein of The American Legion.

"We thank the administration for its proposed increase in the VA budget and we are always available to assist by providing guidance to ensure a veterans health care system that is worthy of the heroes that use it."

Our thanks to the American Legion for leading the charge of Veterans' organizations against this proposal.

Original post:

The American Legion keeps the heat on in today's WSJ.

'If you were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan and you have not paid your co-pay, please press 1. If you were injured during military training and you have not yet reached your deductible, please press 2. If your family has reached its maximum insurance benefit, please call back after you have purchased additional coverage. Thank you for your service.'

Bonus! Let's cut weapons systems, too (via Ace).
Two defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly said Gates will announce up to a half-dozen major weapons cancellations later this month. Candidates include a new Navy destroyer, the Air Force's F-22 fighter jet, and Army ground-combat vehicles, the officials said.

17 March 2009

Background Security

U.S. Army soldiers provide security as Lt. Gen. Attiqullah Lodeen, the governor of Logar, and other government officials tour Koshi district in Logar province, Afghanistan, March 4. Lodeen was in Koshi to open a new district center for the region. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Thompson.

Nothing is Sacred


The American Legion Strongly Opposed to President's Plan to Charge Wounded Heroes for Treatment

WASHINGTON, March 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The leader of the nation's largest veterans organization says he is "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.

"It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. "He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it."

The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, "This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ' to care for him who shall have borne the battle' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans!"

Commander Rehbein was among a group of senior officials from veterans service organizations joining the President, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, the overseer of defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The group's early afternoon conversation at The White House was precipitated by a letter of protest presented to the President earlier this month. The letter, co-signed by Commander Rehbein and the heads of ten colleague organizations, read, in part, " There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran's personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable."

Read the rest at the link. You can be sure there will be more on this to come. We've just begun to fight.

Flashback: Remember this?

We all know that the sacred trust does not end when the uniform comes off. That’s why it’s time to build a 21st-century VA. No more red tape. It’s time to give every service member electronic copies of their medical records and service records upon discharge so that they can immediately get the services that they’ve earned. No more shortfalls. We’ll fully fund VA health care. No more delays. We’ll pass on-time budgets. No more means testing. It’s time to allow every veteran into the VA system.

Update: Statements from the VFW and IAVA.

16 March 2009

The Mudville Gazette Turns Six

Congratulations and thank you to the Greyhawks.

German-based medical units headed to Afghanistan

Airborne surgical team headed to Afghanistan
By Nancy Montgomery, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, March 14, 2009

HEIDELBERG, Germany — U.S. Army Europe’s only airborne surgical team is headed to Afghanistan this spring to provide quick, lifesaving surgeries for U.S. troops during the upcoming "surge."

The 67th Forward Surgical Team (Airborne), based in Miesau and one of only five airborne surgical teams in the Army, has received deployment orders to Afghanistan for up to a year. That unit’s soldiers provide trauma surgeries close to the battlefield in the "golden hour" — the first hour after a soldier is wounded and most at risk to die from shock and bleeding.

"We’re ready to do our part," said Maj. Cory Williams, team chief and a critical care nurse. "A good bit of my team is experienced both in deployments and clinically. We’re real motivated, and probably even more than usual because we’re paratroopers."

The team, with fewer than 30 doctors, nurses and medics who can all be packed into six Humvees, will also be treating NATO and Afghan troops as well as civilians, Williams said.

The unit is one of two Germany-based medical units deploying in the next few months.

The 30th Medical Command Headquarters also received orders for up to a year in Afghanistan. The command will oversee all U.S. medical assets in Afghanistan, set and coordinate medical policy, and work with the Afghan government to build health care capacity in the beleaguered country.

The 67th FST (Airborne), whose members usually work at Landstuhl hospital, was last deployed to Iraq in 2005. The 30th Medical Command deployed for seven months in 2003, and its headquarters deployed in 2005.

Hohenfels soldiers training troops at Fort Bragg

Two soldiers from Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provide security while on a route reconnaissance mission during an exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C., with members of the the Joint Multinational Readiness Center from Hohenfels, Germany. Photo: Kris A. Eglin / U.S. Army.

Hohenfels soldiers training troops at Fort Bragg
By Seth Robson, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Sunday, March 15, 2009

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Six hundred trainers and support staff from Hohenfels’ Joint Multinational Readiness Center are at Fort Bragg, N.C., this month helping prepare soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division for a potential overseas combat mission.

The exercise is designed to test the cost effectiveness of providing pre-deployment training for troops at their home bases instead of sending them to the Army’s combat training centers. ...

The Army will look at the Fort Bragg training and compare the cost of moving the trainers and their equipment there against the cost of moving a brigade of almost 4,000 soldiers and their equipment to a training center, [Maj. Nick Sternberg, the JMRC public affairs officer] said.

For the 82nd Airborne training, JMRC has sent its observer controller teams, Arabic language role players and two companies of 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment soldiers to act as enemy fighters.

"We are using the training area at Fort Bragg and we have added to it by constructing MOUT (military operations in urban terrain) sites and mock villages," Sternberg said. ...

One advantage of training a unit at its home base is that the soldiers spend less time away from home, Sternberg said.

"With the number of deployments that units have and the requirements they have before they deploy this reduces time away from home and family during training," he said.

14 March 2009

Possible living Medal of Honor nominee

About time.

CMC: Living MoH recipient may be coming

The Marine Corps commandant said Wednesday that an investigator is reviewing a valor case that, if approved, would yield the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor in the war on terrorism.

“We have a case that I sent an investigating officer out to take a look at on the West Coast that, if proven, I think will prompt me to recommend the Medal of Honor for a living Marine,” Gen. James T. Conway said.

Brothers at War: Two Brothers Went to Fight. One Went to Find Out Why

Soldiers’ Angels is partnering with the acclaimed new documentary Brothers at War to help tell the stories of America's warfighters and their families. Directed by civilian Jake Rademacher, who followed his two military brothers to document their combat deployment and return home, the documentary is an intimate portrait of a military family during wartime.

A winner at the 2008 GI Film Festival, Brothers at War has been receiving rave reviews from military supporters, veterans and military families.

Soldiers' Angel, military spouse, and radio personality Greta Perry had a chance to preview the film and interview Director Jake Rademacher. Click to listen to this MUST HEAR interview.

It is currently screening in a number of cities across America, so check out the film's website for locations near you.

Happy Alive Day, Guys!!!

A big shout out to Hack, Mayer, and Knapp! Like many others, not a day has gone by over the past year that I haven't thought about you guys.

Because nobody says it better than a Mom, here's today's entry from Knapp's Caring Bridge Page. (Mayer's can be found here.)

Dear Alex,

As we celebrate this first Alive Day I am completely overwhelmed with emotion. I am brought back to the day when our lives changed forever - it was a beautiful day in Michigan, 60 degrees in March is not something you see all the time - I had a closing that day and told everyone that you would be coming home that weekend from Iraq on leave... we were so happy we were giddy. Dad was sick from chemo, but we knew he would be better for you guys to go to Vegas.

When I got that phone call at 9:35pm I argued with the dispatcher - it could not possibly be you - you were on your way home on leave!! Thank you so much Reedy's, Donnellys and Delbenes for being with us that awful night - desperate for information. Thank you so much Joyce Groller for getting me directly to the Intensive Care Unit in Germany to get accurate information. Thank you forever to Maryann Phillips (a Soldiers Angel) for sitting with Alex for 2 days straight and giving me (almost hourly) updates on him and telling him how much we loved him as we could not be there. I can live forever and not be able to thank everyone for thier love and support during that time.

Alex, I cannot believe how far you have come - from the time that you "woke up" on Easter (and I fed you the Sobe Energie) with a spoon because you were so parched and the nurses said you could only have ice chips - to the "picnics" in the courtyard with the fountain. The mustache. The first haircut, because you were out of military protocol. The first time that you got in the wheelchair - that was really the start of your recovery - you had control and were on the move!!! The first outing at Austin Grill - with Mike, Tim and Dad... how much fun was that!!! The first outing to the Nationals game, tough on you- - but a definite good time and close to normal!! Out on Saturday night with Bryan and the guys - kicking your pain meds on your own - you are the strong-willed one!! Barbeques in the courtyard at the Molonge House - surgery and praying, praying, praying that you would finally heal.

You are so fortunate - so very many people love and care about you - everyone has been pulling for your recovery- you have done your part to get well, and will use this to continue to improve. I know that you will take this experience and do great things with your life. I am so very grateful to have been with you on this journey. I am so very grateful for the wonderful friends that we have made at Walter Reed (Hope, Vicki, Marcy...etc)

I am SO VERY grateful that you are here to receive this "letter", and I am grateful that you are well enough to embark on the next chapter of this adventure. I love you so very much.

Love - Mom

I, too, am grateful you're all here to celebrate your first Alive Days. Wishing you many, many more!

13 March 2009

When Dreams Come True

Army Sgt. Stephen Covell and an Iraqi girl go down a slide at the Al-Moutasam kindergarten playground during the school’s reopening ceremony March 3, 2009, in eastern Baghdad’s Rusafa district. U.S. Army photo by Georges Aboumrad.

Iraqi girls dressed like little princesses in a school playground where the walls are painted with butterflies and flowers... for some, it required the "willing suspension of disbelief." For others, it was the belief that a people free to choose will always choose peace.

Found at Chuck's, who is recovering from surgery number 37 or 38, he's not sure.

12 March 2009

“When it mattered most, they answered the call”

The Joint Staff Honor Guard present the colors during the First Annual Remembrance Ceremony in Dedication to Fallen Military Medical Personnel at Arlington National Cemetery, March 11, 2009. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley.

At Landstuhl hospital there is an entire very, very long wall dedicated to military medical personnel who have received the Medal of Honor throughout our nation's history. Each plaque has a photo and a short description of the recipient's heroic actions saving the lives of others on the battlefield.

It's an inspirational display. And that's why I'm very pleased to hear about this, the first remembrance ceremony and wreath laying for military medical personnel killed in the war on terror at Arlington cemetery.

Remembrance Ceremony Honors Fallen Military Medics

By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., March 11, 2009 – Beneath the rows of simple white headstones evenly spaced beneath a dull and cloudy mid-March sky, the stories of those who rest at Arlington National Cemetery here today are anything but ordinary.

Some were killed by heavy machine-gun fire. Others were showered with rockets or mortars. And many were surprised by the explosion of an unexpected roadside bomb. But for the more than 210 military medics, corpsmen, doctors and nurses who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, they were killed trying to save others, the Defense Department’s top medical official said.

“Their motto is ‘Good medicine, bad places,’” Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant defense secretary for health affairs, said during the first remembrance ceremony and wreath laying for military medical personnel killed in the war on terror. “When it mattered most, they answered the call.”

More than 100 friends, relatives and military members turned out for what officials plan to make an annual event to honor their loved ones and pay homage to a profession that almost always places its practitioners in difficult situations.

Casscells, who’s also an Army Reserve colonel in the medical corps, talked of his fellow medics and corpsmen who never hesitated to treat their enemy. He read excerpts of medics who were so badly wounded they died giving first aid instructions calmly to others, because they couldn’t provide the treatment themselves. He talked of others who gave their last minutes of life bandaging Iraqi children after a suicide bomb detonated.

“The decisions these medics and doctors and nurses make on the battlefield are a triumph of the human spirit,” he said. “No greater love has any man than this than to lay down his life for his friends -- and they have done exactly that.

Combat medics have one of the highest-risk jobs in the military, he said, noting the intense, rigorous training they undergo to save lives.

“They had training that didn’t exist in Vietnam or World War II,” he said. “They’re training to the level of [emergency medical treatment] and higher because of the tactical combat environment. They’re so intensively trained in things that would make a [civilian] doctor pause.”

More than 5,000 U.S. military lives have been lost on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan under the backdrop of guerilla warfare and unpredictably sophisticated tactics and military capability. However, thousands more may have been lost if not for medics and corpsmen first responders in the field, he said.

“Their skill and their bravery is the single most important reason why the fatality rate today in Iraq and Afghanistan is 10 percent vs. 23 percent in Vietnam,” he said. “This is despite much more powerful munitions, munitions which explode right under your vehicle.”

Deborah Mullen, wife of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered her condolences and praised the military medical corps for their devotion to others. She said to remember them not for the life that was lost, but for the lives they saved.

“We come here today to pay tribute to the heroes of our heroes -- the men and women who risked their own lives and limbs to save the lives and limbs of others,” Mullen said. “Time cannot describe and words fail to convey the fidelity and ardor in which these brave souls did their duty.”

A lone U.S. Army bugler plays taps at the conclusion of the First Annual Remembrance Ceremony in Dedication to Fallen Military Medical Personnel at Arlington National Cemetery, March 11, 2009. DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley.

Coast Guard Petty Officer pulls 5-year-old from burning car

A commercial trash truck and a car caught fire in the accident. Photo: Anne Arundel Co. Police.

The WTOP Radio website reports:

MILLERSVILLE, Md., March 4, 2009 - A tragedy could have been more tragic if it wasn't for the "absolutely heroic" actions of a U.S. Coast Guard petty officer early Wednesday morning.

Petty Officer Lavelas Luckey ran past several on-lookers at the scene of a fiery four-vehicle crash in Millersville, Md., reached into a burning car and saved a 5-year-old child. ...

As Luckey pulled the child from the car, an Anne Arundel County police officer tried to rescue the driver. He was unaware she was already dead.

"The Coast Guard motto Semper Paratus was demonstrated in the clearest terms today by an individual who placed himself is extreme danger to save a life," Ray says. ...

Luckey was on his way to work at the engineering logistics center at Curtis Bay when he stopped to help.

Semper Paratus, indeed. Read the rest at WTOP.com.

Motivational banners needed for this year's Face of America Bike Ride!

Once again, Soldiers’ Angels is joining World T.E.A.M. Sports for the Face of America bicycle ride honoring military service members wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. And once again, your help is needed to celebrate the event!

Like last year, we'd love to have tons of banners to hang in support of the riders - both wounded and non-wounded - signs of gratitude, celebration and appreciation. Banners can be all sizes, from t-shirts to pillow cases, to twin flat sheets.

This is something everyone can participate in and would be a great group activity for any age. To see pictures of banners and the event from previous years click here.

Banners must be received by April 22. Please email Lynette of Soldiers' Angels for shipping address.

This year the event will be held on April 25 and 26 and covers 110 miles from Bethesda, MD to Gettysburg, PA. Over 200 people participated last year, and more are expected this year.

Participants will include active-duty military personnel, civilians, and wounded warriors including fellow MilBlogger MAJ Chuck Ziegenfuss of Valour-IT fame.

09 March 2009

McGuire - Ramstein - Bagram and back: Lifeline to Afghanistan

Ramstein's a busy place these days. Pressure on supply lines moving through Pakistan and the possible closure of Manas in Kyrgyzstan, combined with the planned increase of forces in Afghanistan, have made the delivery of personnel and supplies directly to Bagram by air an increasingly vital link in the supply chain.

The six-day mission of the Sixth Airlift Squadron, 305th Air Mobility Command: Fly from McGuire AFB in New Jersey to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, “an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia,” then head back to Ramstein and, ultimately, home. Along the way, pick up and drop off troops and carry 540,000 pounds of fuel and cargo, including a jet engine for a KC-135 air-refueling tanker and rotor blades for a CH-53 Marine helicopter.

The green and white lights in the C-17 Globemaster’s massive cargo compartment go dark, replaced by the glow from a string of dim red bulbs.

It is 1 a.m., 30,000 feet over Afghanistan. No sense making the plane an easy target against the dark sky.

“Can I have your attention? We are starting our combat entry,” says a voice over a public address system.

Army troops quickly don flak jackets, and Air Force crew members strap on sidearms while the pilots in the armored cockpit put on night-vision goggles to scan the ground for flashes of light that might be gunfire.

Capt. Dave Gaulin of Cherry Hill guides the mammoth $200 million aircraft toward a glowing spot in the clouds, lit by runway lights below.

He and Capts. Chris Zielinski of Center City and James Sprys of Marlton are minutes away from Bagram Air Base, part of a sprawling American military presence in the shadow of the snowcapped Hindu Kush Mountains.

Their plane — flying last week with Army soldiers, Air Force airmen, and tons of supplies — is part of a long lifeline, a kind of Berlin Airlift that sustains the base, the 4,000 airmen at adjacent Camp Cunningham, and other U.S. troops battling the Taliban.

Philly.com has video and some great photos in a slideshow here.

What's that saying again about strategy vs. logistics?

Green Beret becomes first amputee to complete Jumpmaster Course

Sgt. 1st Class Mike Fairfax, left, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant with Operations Detachment, 3rd Special Forces Group, inspects a Soldier's parachute while performing duties as a safety aboard an aircraft over a drop zone above Raeford, N.C. Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Jason Baker.

Late last year SFC Mike Fairfax became the first amputee Soldier to complete the Jumpmaster Course, paving the way for other amputees.

The majority of the course focuses on the jumpmaster personnel inspection. The sequence requires the jumpmaster to squat or bend down to visually inspect the jumper's equipment. Most jumpmasters will go into a deep squat during this portion as, going to a knee will take more time to get up and continuing the inspection.

During the final test students are required to properly inspect three jumpers and in five minutes find all deficiencies and conduct the inspection in the exact inspection sequence. For Fairfax his only option was to drop to a knee.

For fellow students in the course this would be the only clue that he was missing a leg. "Most guys saw him kind of limping around, but didn't know he was missing a leg," said the noncommissioned officer in charge during the course, Master Sgt. David West, from 2nd Bn., 3rd SFG.

"It wasn't until our first rotation in the (JMPI) circle and he dropped down on the concrete slab. It made such a loud sound all the guys turned and looked. The crack was so loud it sounded like rounds were dropping in. One guy asked him 'did that hurt' and he responded, "no, I don't have a knee."

For most Soldiers, when they join the Army there are a set of schools they set their eyes on as goals to complete. Schools like, Air Assault, Ranger and Pathfinder. For any airborne qualified noncommissioned officer, the natural goal would be the Jumpmaster Course. ...

For Fairfax, this journey began the summer of 2005 in a remote region of Afghanistan when his truck was struck by an improvised explosive device.

You gotta read the whole thing.

08 March 2009

Godspeed SGT Simone Robinson

Then SPC Simone Robison, and daughter Nyzia.

There are patients who stay with you sometimes. You see them and they just stay with you. It's hard to say why, because you didn't know them before and you may learn nothing about them if they're not awake.

In fact, I didn't even know her name at the time. But now I understand why SGT Simone Robinson stayed with me.

“Nothing compares to what our family is experiencing at this time, with the loss of Simone.

She was devoted to her friends, her family, her country and most importantly to her daughter, Nyzia. She wanted nothing more than to be a good role model for Nyzia and was dedicated to working hard to provide for her.

Simone had a smile that could easily light up a room and an angelic voice heard by so many. Simone sang her way through life, getting her through so much.

She is truly our hero and will always be in our hearts.”

My heart dropped when I learned Simone didn't make it. I then discovered (via Milblogs) that she was a member of TF Phoenix together with CSM Bones, who described her as "that rare Soldier you hope to have assigned to your unit, one who lifted everyone's spirits and others could turn to when they were down" and "one of the most inspirational Soldiers" in the Task Force.

Please take a moment to read about the life of SGT Simone Robinson.

My thoughts and prayers are with Simone's family and her fellow Soldiers of TF Phoenix. Godspeed, Simone.

07 March 2009

The Run4Chance: "Team Semper Fi" runs charity race to support a fallen brother

Cpl. Matthew Sondermann (far left) and the rest of "Team Semper Fi" at the first Run4Chance on February 21, 2009. It took place as part of the 28th annual "Race on the Base" held at the Joint Forces Training Base at Los Alamitos, California. The Run4Chance initiative is a partnership between HBO and The Chance Phelps Foundation.

Hello Everyone...

I just wanted to share this story with you guys and let you all know how I'm doing. I completed my second 5k this past Saturday out in Los Angeles. This was my first one out of the wheelchair! The Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund has continued to show us tremendous support by flying us out there and putting us up for the weekend. It was an honor to give back by participating in the race and it supported a great cause.

- Cpl. Matthew Sondermann

February 21st was also the premiere airing of the HBO film "Taking Chance". I hope all of you living in the US were able to see it. If you're not familiar with the story about the Marine Officer who volunteers to escort the body of a fallen Marine back home, see this summary post and links at Blackfive (with film trailer).

Like Matthew Sondermann, many of the members of "Team Semper Fi" who ran in honor of LCpl Chance Phelps have been wounded in action - a few of them just six months ago. If you look closely at the photo above, you'll see that Matthew ran the race with a "halo" traction device on his right leg.

Cpl. Matthew Sondermann (right) in Afghanistan last year. He served two prior tours in Iraq.

Matthew was injured in Afghanistan by an IED explosion on June 14, 2008 while serving with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He suffered suffered multiple compound fractures of his leg and forearm, lacerations on his face and eye and third degree burns on his legs.

The blast severely injured Matthew, along with 3 other Marines who were riding in the Humvee.

"He said his brothers came right in and scooped him up in spite of possible secondary IEDs and sniper fire," according to his father Erich Sondermann.

Family friend and fellow Soldiers' Angel Kathy Sweeney contacted me to let us know Matthew had been hurt. Finding out that a loved one has been seriously wounded causes a time of extreme stress for their families. But when I spoke with Matthew's mom, Linda Araouzou, she told me why this notification was particularly horrifying for her: She had received an almost identical call seven years ago saying her other son had suffered a serious leg injury in a motorcycle accident but was alive. Erich Sondermann Jr later died of his injuries.

But this time was different. When she was able to speak with Matthew he told her, "I can think clearly, I can see, and I'm alive".

After a brief stay at Landstuhl, Matthew was medevaced to Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas, and we've been following his progress ever since.

Matthew is greeted by Assistant Commandant Gen. James F. Amos

Cpl. Matthew Sondermann (right) and SSgt. Benjamin Brodt are awarded the Purple Heart.

Recovering at Brooke. Note the "breakaway" leg on the cammies. But sorry, Matthew, with those shoes you're still out of uniform :-)

Rocking out at the Marines Corps ball.

Congratulations on completing the Run4Chance race, Matthew! Here's to many more.

To honor the Run4Chance team’s participation in the race, HBO donated $10,000 to the Chance Phelps Foundation. HBO is also sponsoring Run4Chance teams in various races around the country throughout the rest of the year. For more information, please visit the Run4Chance website.

Through the Chance Phelps web site and the charities they support it is the Foundation's hope that people will never forget the sacrifices of those like LCpl Chance Phelps.

05 March 2009

American Pride

Army Spc. Jose DeLeon displays his American pride as he mans a .50 caliber machine gun, on a UH-60 Black Hawk, during a mission in Afghanistan. DeLeon is attached to Company G with the 7th Battalion, 101st Airborne Division stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo: Lt. Col. Steven Osterholzer.

04 March 2009

Flight medic SSG Matthew Kinney awarded Silver Star

Sgt. Matthew Kinney, 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, was awarded the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross in the same ceremony. Photo: Spc. George Welcome / ARMY Staff

I found this story about SSG Matthew Kinney at Blackfive yesterday. You'll remember Kinney's Dustoff team from the Stars & Stripes article and video I linked to last year.

Medic honored for Afghanistan actions

Staff sgt. awarded Silver Star for saving patients, soldiers and medevac crew

By Michelle Tan - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Mar 1, 2009 8:48:28 EST

When Staff Sgt. Matthew S. Kinney’s boots touched the ground in Afghanistan’s rugged Korengal Valley, he knew that six wounded soldiers were waiting for him.

Over the next 45 minutes to an hour, Kinney’s actions under fire to evacuate what eventually became eight wounded men would earn him a Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.

Kinney, 30, had already served twice in Iraq when he deployed for his first tour in Afghanistan with the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, of Fort Campbell, Ky.

By the time he came home in January after 12 months in Afghanistan, Kinney had earned a Silver Star, a Distinguished Flying Cross from a separate engagement, and responded to the aftermath of the July 2008 battle in Wanat, Afghanistan, a bloody clash that claimed the lives of nine soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.

“In my mind, I’ve done a lot of stuff throughout my Army career, and I don’t feel like I should be awarded [the Silver Star],” Kinney told Army Times on Feb. 19 after his award ceremony. “It’s like I’m not deserving of the award. I was just doing my job.”

The article goes on to describe the rest of the events of Oct. 16, 2008. After one aircraft left with the first group of casualties, a firefight ensued at the landing zone, and Kinney faced other challenges. Finally, Kinney and the last group of patients were on their way out:

In the air, Kinney single-handedly treated five critical patients, controlling bleeding, administering pain control, dressing wounds and starting intravenous drips, according to the narrative. The wounds he worked on included partial amputations, femoral bleeding and gunshot and shrapnel wounds.

“On countless occasions, he demonstrated a willingness to lay down his own life for those he is sworn to protect,” according to the narrative. “By calling Apache fire onto the location of an enemy heavy machine gun during an ambush, he saved the lives of countless soldiers on the ground, as well as the lives of the entire medevac crew who had assumed a stationary hover over the kill zone.”

Kinney credited his fellow soldiers for their actions on that day.

“Everything happened the way it happened because you train that way as a team and we ended up doing it as a team,” he said. “When things start going bad you take the plan you have and adjust it so you can keep moving forward, because when you stop or hesitate is the second you lose an aircraft or somebody gets hurt or somebody dies,” he said. “I know I have to always keep moving. If something doesn’t work you just have to modify it and you can’t come up with ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m stressed’ or ‘I can’t do this.’ You have to find a way.”

Make sure to read the whole thing.

Staff Sgt. Matthew Kinney, a flight medic, treats a wounded U.S. soldier while Staff Sgt. James Frailey, a helicopter crew chief, looks on. An Afghan soldier, in the rear, was wounded. Photo and story: Michael Gisick / S&S.

Kinney's Dustoff unit worked other missions you're familiar with: He and fellow flight medic SGT Adam Connaughton helped take care of CPT Rob Yllescas. They medevaced the casualties out of Wanat. And Connaughton pulled out the guys of 3rd Group after they were ambushed in the Shok valley. You may remember 10 of them were awarded Silver Stars for their actions in that battle. SGT Connaughton received a Bronze Star with Valor and later an Air Medal with Valor.

As I said in my earlier post on them, there are no words to describe how I feel about these guys whom you can meet by watching the video here.

Update April 2010: DUSTOFF Association Flight Medic of the Year