29 February 2012

Continuing Afghanistan Conflict More Severe Injuries Keep Landstuhl Busy

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany remains busy caring for war casualties in Afganistan. LRMC photo.

From U.S. Medicine:

While military action in Iraq may have ended in 2011, military medical centers such as Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany continue to be busy caring for seriously wounded from Afghanistan.

“Despite the fact that [the conflict in Iraq] is over, our numbers have actually not decreased considerably. … Even in June of last year, it was the 10th-busiest month in terms of casualties since the beginning of the conflict, so our numbers really haven’t significantly decreased,” Air Force Maj. David Zonies, MD, interim trauma director at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC), told U.S. Medicine.

In 2011, LRMC received 7,615 wounded troops from theater, with 202 of them from non-U.S. Coalition Forces. Overall, the complexity and severity of injuries seems to have increased.

“The injury patterns we saw from Iraq were more gunshot wounds and smaller explosives,” said Zonies. “In Afghanistan, the explosives that are used are, I presume, of a higher capacity because the amputations that are generated from the dismounted improvised explosive devices are causing severe lower extremity amputation, multiple extremity amputations, and, because of the high impact of the explosives to the lower legs, it creates injuries to the pelvis and perineum.”

In November, the Army released a report on dismounted complex-blast injuries detailing the severity of those injuries, which are defined as explosion-induced battle injuries sustained by a servicemember on foot patrol that involves traumatic amputation of one leg, at least a severe injury to the other leg and a possible pelvic, abdominal and/or genital or urinary injury. The report stated that the incidence of these injuries had increased during the last 15 months of combat in the Afghanistan and that the number of extremity injuries, to include major amputations, had exceeded that seen within Iraq at any point.

More at the link.

28 February 2012

"I have never felt stronger and more beautiful than I do today. America has given that back to me."

Terrific story about Sgt. Kendra Coleman from KTRK-TV, Houston.

War veteran honored with gift of home

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- An Afghanistan war veteran who lost her leg during an insurgent attack nearly two years ago is back on her feet and helping other wounded veterans. On Monday, she was the focus of attention as she was honored and awarded for her sacrifice, with a house warming party like no other.

Sgt. Kendra Coleman saw her new home for the first time, with our cameras rolling. She arrived at her new home amid much pomp and circumstance.

On May 11, 2010, an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan took Sgt. Coleman's leg. Former presidential candidate Ross Perot, Sr. depicts the next moments.

He read, "'I knew I was hit,' she said. 'I reached down to my left leg pocket to grab my tourniquet, my pocket wasn't there, just the remaining pieces of what had been my left leg.'"

Her fellow battle buddies were able to save her. And her little brother then called himself up to duty, dropping everything he was doing to help her rehab.

Sgt. Coleman tearfully said, "He gave up college, he gave up his youth, he gave up having fun. He was only 19 when I was blown up. He spent the last two years taking care of me. So thank you."

"Any brother should do for his sister, I guess," said her brother, Troy Pieper. "She needs me more than I need everything else in the world, so... "

Now a recipient of HelpingAHero.org, Sgt. Coleman walked though the door of her new home with Perot and her husband by her side. Hopefully the master closet is a big one.

"I'm a woman. I have to wear stilettos and skinny jeans," she said.

The sergeant was given a special prosthetic allowing her to wear high heels.

"When I got hurt, I thought my life was over, I would never be attractive again and I would never be strong again or confident," Sgt. Coleman recalled. "Mr. Perot brought that all back. I can wear four and a half inch heels now."

This new Cinco Ranch home and its owner will serve as a monument of heroism and defense of our country.

"Yes, I lost a leg and I have many scars on my body, and I have PTSD, but I have never felt stronger and more beautiful than I do today," Sgt. Coleman said. "America has given that back to me."

After getting settled in, she intends to study at Texas A&M and help other amputees with their rehab, so they can get back on their feet and back to full speed like she did.

27 February 2012

Warrior Recovery Center at Kandahar Airfield opens

Roger of the Soldiers' Angels Deployed Medical Support Team spotted our First Response Backpacks in this video about the new Warrior Recovery Center in Kandahar. Soldiers' Angels is a proud supplier of this new facility. Click here if you'd like you sponsor a First Response Backpack for a Wounded Warrior.

Warrior Recovery Center at Kandahar Airfield opens

ISAF Regional Command South
Courtesy Story
By Mass Communication Specialist First Class Farrukh A. Daniel

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The new Warrior Recovery Center, a brand new, state of the art intermediate treatment facility for wounded service members, officially opened its doors during a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Feb. 16, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

The ceremonial ribbon was cut by Maj. Gen. William Rapp, deputy commanding general for support, U.S. Forces –Afghanistan. He was joined by senior leaders from around Afghanistan in dedicating the facility.

Capt. Bruce Meneley, Commander of Task Force Med – South said, “When I first got here in August, it was clear that we had a very fragmented system of taking care of our wounded warriors who weren’t being transferred out of theater. Boy, we have come a long way today.”

Maj. Gen. Rapp added that keeping soldiers in country has big benefits. “The ability that you are bringing to restore the resiliency of our soldiers, to keep them near the fight, will make the units that are fighting in this battle space that much better.”

“I’m a proponent of the idea that soldiers have a ‘bank’ of resiliency,” said Rapp. “Day in and day out, when they are out on patrols, they are taking withdrawals from that bank. At some point in time, that bank account starts looking pretty low. The ability to restore them, to keep them forward near their buddies, to help rebuild their bank accounts gets them back into the fight. It keeps them from having to be evacuated. Once they are evacuated they rarely come back, but if they are here, they have a tremendously positive success rate in getting them back with their soldiers.”

The Warrior Recovery Center is a residential and outpatient military medical facility that provides short-term, comprehensive care to wounded warriors in southern Afghanistan who suffer from combat related injuries and/or combat stress. The center focuses on four pillars of treatment: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussive Care, Combat Stress Control Restorative Care, Wounded Warrior (Musculoskeletal) Care, and Behavioral Health.

Capt. Peggy Salinas, a trauma ICU nurse and the officer in charge of the WRC said, “The old Wounded Warrior area was a tent, in a crowded, dusty, noisy area. It wasn’t the best environment for rest and healing. It was hard to ensure they were getting the treatment and recovery they needed.”

The new facility, said Salinas, “Here, we provide a setting that fosters rest, healing and recuperation. The caregivers live here on campus, so we can provide 24 hour care.”

26 February 2012

Injured Medic rejoins Soldier she treated

Staff Sgt. Brian Wayland and Spc. Ashley Jones recover at San Antonio Military Medical Center after they were both injured in Afghanistan. Maria Gallegos, Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON -- A Combat Medic who treated a Soldier in Afghanistan found herself in a role reversal after she was injured a week later and brought to San Antonio Military Medical Center where the Soldier she treated is also recovering.

A recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma with an Aerospace Engineer degree and an Infantryman with the National Guard for eight years, Staff Sgt. Brian Wayland deployed to Afghanistan on April 2011 with his unit Company C, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry, Oklahoma Army National Guard.

"I was definitely excited and nervous when I got the call to deploy. I talked it over with my wife and told her I didn't have to go but I also told her how I could not live with myself if any of my Soldiers were injured or killed and I wasn't there. So together we decided I would go," said Wayland.

On Dec. 9, 2011, Wayland was on his routine mounted patrol in Afghanistan when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device that threw him away from the vehicle.

"It happened so fast, one minute I was backing up the mine roller vehicle from a clearing route and then the next minute I was in a ditch about 30 to 60 feet away from the vehicle," said Wayland.

He managed to move his injured body about 100 meters to the patrol base where Spc. Ashley Jones started immediate medical aid until he was air-lifted to Forward Operating Base Fenty in Afghanistan.

"As I was lying there on the back of the vehicle -- what kept me motivated to keep going was the thrill of waiting for the 'bird' to pick me up. I kept looking up, just watching, anticipating…,"chuckled Wayland.

Wayland was transferred to SAMMC nine days after he was injured and was diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury and multiple facial and body injuries due to fragments from the IED.

"Everyday I'm getting better. I do wish my brain worked the same way as it did before, but this is not an obstacle that I can't overcome. There have been a lot of life lessons that were learned but if all I gave for this country is my concentration, memory problems, hearing and scars, I'm doing pretty good," said Wayland.

Jones, a 20 year-old combat medic, joined the National Guard at age 17, was assigned to Company C, 700 Brigade Support Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team when she deployed and often traveled on convoys to provide medical support for the Soldiers in combat.

"I don't want to have to do my job, but I will when I need to," said Jones. She further went on to explain that combat medics do their most demanding work when others are at their worst.

Coincidentally, one week after Wayland was injured, Jones' vehicle was struck by an IED, injuring her right foot. She soon realized her right foot was crushed from the blast so she immediately started self aid by applying a tourniquet to her right leg until a combat medic came to rescue.

"I was in and out of consciousness so I can't remember how bad I was hurt," said Jones.

She was medically evacuated to FOB Fenty in Afghanistan where they removed her right leg below the knee, transferred her to Germany and then to SAMMC on Dec. 24.

"Just a week ago, I had to MEDEVAC someone and now here I am," she said, reflecting on being on the other end of the patient-medic relationship.

She was the first amputee in her unit.

"I didn't know she was here [SAMMC] until I came back from my four day pass," said Wayland. "My injuries might have been worse if Spc. Jones was not there to provide first aid.

"Her calming demeanor helped me believe I was going to be okay," he added. "That is the big battle when someone gets injured. If you think you are not going to make it, there is a possibility your body might start shutting down. The mind is a powerful thing."

He and his wife visited Jones daily in the hospital until she was released Jan. 18 and plan to remain close friends, especially during their rehabilitation at SAMMC and at the Center for the Intrepid.

"After she got out, I made sure her and her family were taken care of with rides to different places and provide them with any information they need," he said. "On Valentine's Day, my commander and I took Ashley and her mom, JoDe, to dinner to try to make the day special for them. That's the least I can do."

After Jones returns home, she plans to stay in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and return back to school.

"After my rehabilitation, I wanted to transfer to Oklahoma State University to receive my degree in Nursing but after visiting and rehabbing at the CFI, I'm thinking about changing my degree to become a physical therapist," Jones said. "I don't regret my decision in joining the National Guard, its unfortunate what happened to me but I'll get through it."

Wayland would like to find a job in engineering to help other wounded warriors with their injuries.

"I hope to get a job in aerospace engineering and use engineering to better the world. I plan on doing research to help amputees to return to a more normal life through technology. They have given so much, so we as a country should strive to give them the very best," said Wayland.

Wayland and Jones both received Purple Heart medals and certificates for their bravery and courage and Jones received her Combat Medic Badge for treating a fellow Soldier while being actively engaged by the enemy.

Thriving after surviving

"I'm not letting this bring me down at all. There's no point. I'm still here. I'm still talking. Its a blessing that I'm still alive."

- PFC Matthew Leyva was severely wounded in Afghanistan last summer, resulting in the amputation of half of his right hand and both legs. Watch him talk about his plans for the future.

20 February 2012

Troops in Afghanistan honor American freedom on President's Day

U.S. Army Capt. John Stehulak (left), Optometry Clinic optometrist, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Hagan, Optometry Clinic Detachment sergeant, stand in front of their creation of a snow version of the Statue of Liberty on Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 20, 2012. Stehulak and Hagan are attached to the 124th Medical Detachment based out of Fort Shafter, Hawaii. Photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick.

Cpl. Michael Nicholson returns to huge Tampa welcome

Wounded warrior Cpl. Michael Nicholson returns to huge Tampa welcome

By Stephanie Wang, Times Staff Writer
Monday, February 20, 2012

A voice shouted through a crowd of hundreds.

"Here he comes!"

And a roar of cheers ripped through Tampa International Airport on Sunday afternoon, a building wave of applause for a young Tampa man in uniform.

Everyone wanted to shake his hand. Everyone wanted to hug him. This homecoming, they said, was an answer to their prayers.

Marine Cpl. Michael Nicholson, 22, rolled his wheelchair down the aisle. He wore three prosthetics under his uniform, but when people thanked him, they looked him in his eyes.

Serving in Afghanistan last July, Nicholson lost both legs and part of his left arm in a blast from a hidden explosive. He has undergone 23 surgeries, recovering at a naval hospital in Bethesda, Md.

Nicholson arrived Sunday in Tampa for the first time since being wounded, flying in with his family for a month-long leave from therapy.

At the airport, strangers lingered as long as they could before their flights, curious about the color guard and bagpipes. Friends and supporters, including the Marine Corps League, carried banners and waved flags.

"He needs to know what he did was worth it," said Leanne Bivens, 19, a freshman in the University of South Florida's Navy ROTC program.

Valrico resident and Air Force reservist Travis Lemon brought along his daughters, ages 3 and 4.

"These guys need to see what a real hero is," he said, "because we watch a lot of Disney."

At a reception in the pavilion of Christ the King Catholic Church in South Tampa, fellow Marines in dress blues surrounded the car again. Nicholson soon reappeared in his own dress uniform, decorated with a Purple Heart.

"I want to thank everybody here," he said. "You guys have been with me since the start ... You guys are family."

As he paused, the crowd bolstered him with shouts of "God bless you!" and the Marines' "Oorah!"

"Y'all have done so much," Nicholson continued, "and I just ask you to do one more thing for me: Keep praying for the guys over in Afghanistan right now."

He stayed on stage as hundreds lined up to greet him. They told him they were proud of him, showering him with gifts of flags, posters, mementos and even Gasparilla beads.

When it was time to leave, they still crowded around him.

Nicholson rolled his wheelchair back to the car, back behind the line of Marines.

He rode a couple of blocks away to a quiet flag-lined street, and then he was finally home.

Read this wonderful story in full at the link, and make sure to check out the photo gallery with more pictures like the one below.

John Residence of Clearwater, left, gives a vial of volcanic ash from Iwo Jima to Cpl. Mike Nicholson, a fellow Marine, during Nicholson’s homecoming Sunday at Tampa International Airport. Photo: James Borchuck, Tampa Bay Times.

17 February 2012

Returning 1/6 Marines Reunited with Wounded Comrades at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Fellow Marines just back from Afghanistan reunite with LCpl Christian Brown at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Stars & Stripes has the background story. (And I think Captain Trembaly is just about my favorite person in the whole world right now.)

“We had two Marines not come back that came with us,” said Capt. Paul Trembaly, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. The last combat death came Jan. 18, less than two weeks before the Camp Lejeune, N.C., Marines were to begin their rotation back to the states. “They’re mourning him right now,” Trembaly said explaining the Marines' reluctance to talk about those wounded and killed during the deployment.

As a drizzle steadily fell from the gray overcast sky, Trembaly said in planning the ceremony at the memorial, he wanted his Marines “to remember, no matter how hard the times get, or how bad their dreams are, that they are part of a larger prestigious organization that takes care of its own.”

As part of taking care of his company, Trembaly arranged for his Marines, roughly 170 of them, to travel from Camp Lejeune to visit fellow Marines from their unit whose injuries required them to be medically evacuated from Afghanistan and who are recuperating at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Trembaly said 16 of his Marines were medevaced out during their seven-month deployment. Visiting them at the Bethesda complex was an “incredibly powerful, healing measure for us,” he said. “We’ve been able to come together as a family and as a company. It removes the stress of uncertainty for my Marines not knowing exactly what to say or when to reunite with their brethren who were wounded.”

For the Company B Marines who arrived back in the states on Feb. 4, and for whom the trauma of war is still fresh in their minds, visiting their wounded comrades and presenting the Purple Hearts at the Marine Corps Memorial was a therapeutic venture.

“It’s a pretty humbling experience overall,” said [Sgt. Curt] Bartz. “Got to see our brothers that came back a little early, and a lot of guys will be able to sleep better tonight. It’s been probably one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had in the Marine Corps.

“They’re all doing good now.”

Capt. Paul Trembaly, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment presents Purple Hearts during a ceremony Thursday at the Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Va.

15 February 2012

Amputation cases hit post-9/11 high in 2011

From Stars & Stripes:

More troops lost limbs in 2011 than in any previous year of fighting since 2001, recently published Pentagon data shows. 240 troops sustained at least one arm or leg amputated, up from 196 in 2010 and more than the previous high of 205 during the 2007 Iraq surge.

“These are grievous injuries, yes, but when you see them back here with their families having survived, these guys are all grateful to be alive,” said said Col. Jonathan Jaffin, chief of the Army Surgeon General’s Dismounted Complex Blast Injury Task Force.

The full article can be found here.

Wounded Warriors Work Out at Belvoir in Preparation for 2012 Warrior Games

Fort Belvoir received more than 60 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Army veterans from across the country last week. The Soldiers are training and competing for 50 places in the Army Warrior Games field and track team. The games will be held from April 30 - May 5 in Colorado Springs, Colo. Photo and story: James Cullum, Lorton Patch.

08 February 2012

Task Force Poseidon MEDEVAC Soldiers receive Polish award

Polish armed forces operational commander Lt. Gen. Edward Gruszka, pins the Bronze Polish Army Medal to Sgt. Frank Cermak, of Virginia Beach, Va., a flight medic with Task Force Corsair, Task Force Poseidon. Courtesy Photo, DVIDS.

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Three Task Force Poseidon medical evacuation soldiers earned Polish medal Jan. 19 at Forward Operating Base Ghazni.

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Rollin Burley, Staff Sgt. Joshua Melocik and Sgt. Frank Cermak were awarded Polish Army Bronze Medals. The soldiers are members of 3rd Forward Support medevac Team, Charlie Company 3-82, assigned to Task Force Corsair.

"It means that we are getting recognition from a foreign government for the work we do," said Cermak of Virginia Beach, Va., a flight medic. "It shows the cooperative effort between the coalition forces."

Task Force White Eagle is made up of Polish army soldiers currently operating in Ghazni Province.

In the last six months, the 3rd FSMT has evacuated more than 200 Polish soldiers in addition to training Polish medics in combat life-saving techniques. In return, Polish medics have acted as interpreters for the medics during medevacs, greatly adding to the medic’s ability to provide care to the sick and injured.

"Polish medics would fly with us to forward operating bases and points of injury, translating for us so it made it easier,” said Cermak. "They would translate polish medicine that was administered to the casualties by the ground medic."

The awards were presented by Lt. Gen. Edward Gruszka, Polish armed forces operational commander. Alongside of Gruszka was Maj. Gen. Piotr Blazeusz, Task Force White Eagle commander and senior Polish officer in Afghanistan.

The Polish Army Medal (Polish: Medal Wojska Polskiego) was established Sept. 3, 1999. The award was created to recognize service to the Polish army by foreign military personnel. The medal is presented in three grades: gold, silver, and bronze by the Polish Minister of National Defense.

Most awards are presented to members of allied armed forces, but the medal is also awarded to civilians who contribute to promoting the history and traditions of the Polish army outside of Poland.

04 February 2012

Dustoff crew wins Air/Sea Rescue award for mission in Afghanistan

Soldiers from C Company "Dustoff," Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, practice the most dangerous patient extraction method using their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter's hoist during their recent deployment to Regional Command - East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. A medical evacuation crew with Dustoff received the Air/Sea Rescue of the Year award from Army Aviation Association of America for their hoist extraction under extreme conditions.

Dustoff crew wins Air/Sea Rescue award for mission in Afghanistan

By Sgt. Amanda Jo Brown

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 2, 2012) -- An aviation crew with C Company "Dustoff," Task Force Phoenix, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, recently earned an Army Aviation Association of America National Award for a mission conducted in June 2011 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

The Air/Sea Rescue of the Year award was presented to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Erik Sabiston, pilot in command, Jan. 25 at Fort Rucker, Ala.

According to AAAA, the requirements for this award are defined as "a crew or crew member who performs a rescue using a personnel rescue hoist that saved the life or eased the suffering of an individual."

Sabiston recalled the events that occurred last June as if it were only yesterday, rattling off the statistics and descriptions that ultimately earned him and his team the award.

Members of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, found themselves stuck in a violent firefight in the Kunar Province. For a day and a half, Sabiston and his team provided the ground force with more than just medical evacuations.

"A (CH-47) Chinook attempted to get them supplies, but they got hit," Sabiston recalled. "We were the only ones who were able to resupply them."

The team conducted more than 10 hoists for the wounded and fallen heroes.

During the first day, Sgt. Julia Bringloe, a medic, was descending on the hoist during a night extraction. The pilots were flying under dark conditions that made it extremely difficult to see, even through night vision goggles. On her descent, the hoist swung her into a tree.

She was unaware at the time that she had broken her leg.

Sabiston said that Bringloe continued completing each hoist mission unprotected while enemy fire cascaded all around her.

"It was Bringloe who was amazing (through the mission)," Sabiston said. "She continued extracting patients under fire even with a fractured leg."

He explained that Bringloe, like most medics, care more about the patients on the ground than their own well-being.

The crew also was faced with the challenge of flying blindly to perform a rescue.

Sabiston explained that, during another hoist mission, the entire aircraft was engulfed in clouds while they were flying at approximately 10,000 feet. They were unable to see anything to make the rescue, which made it extremely dangerous.

Bringloe was once more eased down on the hoist to retrieve a Soldier. Neither the crew nor medic could see one another when she and the patient were hanging approximately 50 feet below the aircraft.

The experienced medic told the patient to hold on, since she knew the pilots would need to gain enough altitude to clear the cloud ceiling. After Sabiston reached 12,000 feet, they finally retrieved the medic and the patient.

Regardless of the many challenges the crew faced and overcame that day, Sabiston humbly implied that the award could have been awarded to any of the crews due to the duty and selfless service that thrives within the unit.

"We didn't expect to receive an award for our actions," he said. "It is a great honor, but anyone in this unit would have done the same. I just happened to be the one flying at the time with the crew."

Brown is a member of Task Force Phoenix.

03 February 2012


Panetta Pays Tribute to Military Nurses in Germany

U.S Army Col. Jeffrey Ashley, left, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Analise Medina cut a birthday cake honoring the 111th birthday of the U.S. Army Nurses Corps at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, Feb. 3, 2012. Panetta traveled to Ramstein Air Base and Landstuhl to visit patients, and thank service members directly involved with the transportation and care of wounded warriors. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley.

Panetta Pays Tribute to Military Nurses in Germany

By Karen Parrish, American Forces Press Service

LANDSTUHL, Germany, Feb. 3, 2012 – “I’m here to pay tribute to you,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told nurses and other medical professionals here today.

Some 150 service members of all branches gathered at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to welcome the secretary as he paused between a NATO defense ministerial and the Munich security conference to spend time with troops and visit wounded warriors.

Panetta remarked that on the 111th birthday of the Army nurse corps, he sent special wishes to all military nurses.

“I have a special feeling for all the nurses in the crowd, because my wife is a nurse,” he said.
Sylvia Panetta went to nursing school after they met, and the two married after she graduated, the secretary said.

“She’s been taking care of me ever since,” he added.

Military nurses’ skills are crucially important to all patients, but especially those injured in battle, Panetta said.

“Yours are the first eyes they look into,” he said, adding that when those eyes express caring, the emotion becomes part of the healing process.

Nurses and other medical professionals are healers, Panetta said, serving alongside fighters and all the other skilled men and women in uniform.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of those that serve,” he said. “In my book, you are all heroes.”

He then cut the Army nurse corps birthday cake, assisted by the most-senior and most-junior nursing officers assigned to LRMC.

Following his visit to the medical center and an earlier stop at Ramstein Air Base, where he spoke with some 60 airmen who provide patient ground transport, medevac and other services for patients and staff assigned to the medical center, the secretary continued to Munich.

Tomorrow, Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will jointly address the 48th Munich Security Conference.

This morning, the secretary concluded a two-day series of meetings in Brussels with fellow NATO defense ministers and representatives of non-NATO International Security Assistance Force troop-contributing nations.

'We never would have saved them five years ago'

Army Spec. Bryce MacBride, wounded in Afghanistan in late 2010, waits in the hallway of a hospital at Bagram Airfield. (Linda Davidson — The Washington Post)

A recent report by the Congressional Research Service, “Afghanistan Casualties: Military Forces and Civilians”, reveals the remarkable ability of military medical professionals to save the lives of grievously wounded troops.

From a Washington Post article titled In Afghan war, rate of post-injury survival rises:

Last year, 415 American men and women died in Afghanistan, while 5,159 were wounded and survived.

That ratio — 12.4 survivors for every fatality — marked a record high over the past decade. In fact, the ratio has been growing almost every year since 2001.

In 2007, the first year in which battlefield deaths in Afghanistan surpassed 100, there were only 6.4 survivors for every fatality. The ratio dipped slightly in 2008 but has increased ever since.

How much better are doctors, nurses, medics, corpsmen and technicians in this war than in previous ones?

That’s hard to answer with precision. Comparisons are tricky because the quality of medical care isn’t all that changes between conflicts. Indeed, the nature and hazards of combat can evolve during the course of a war.

For example, a study of military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the second half of 2006 found that 76 percent of fatalities were caused by explosions. Earlier in the wars (2003-04), that “mechanism of injury” was responsible for 56 percent of deaths.

In previous wars, blast injuries accounted for less than 10 percent of battle injuries.

That said, there is plenty of evidence that troops wounded today have a far better chance of survival than ever before.

In 2006, approximately 9.8 percent of wounded service members died either on the battlefield or after leaving it in Afghanistan and Iraq. During the Vietnam War, that figure, the “case fatality rate,” was 16 percent. During World War II, it was 19 percent.

“None of these kids would have survived in the civilian world,” Col. Jay Johannigman, an Air Force surgeon, said in late 2010 at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan after a weekly meeting in which doctors review what has happened to critically injured troops after they return to the United States.

“And we never would have saved them five years ago.”

The entire article can be read here.