Warrior medics

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Scott Blair
  • 651st Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, Kandahar Airfield
Warrior medics? I admit that as a medic I've had my share of laughs over this phrase given our status as non-combatants. As a Medical Service Corps officer I've been teased from my line officer friends about my five-week Commissioned Officer Training where I had housekeeping that cleaned my room and made my bed; never having to suffer through a room inspection.

I've grown accustomed, unfortunately, to being an afterthought in wing exercise plans and the butt of jokes and friendly banter of not being "real" military. As I sit here in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, birthplace of the Taliban and still one of the most dangerous places on the planet, the phrase "warrior medic" takes on a whole new meaning. I am currently the Administrator (sounds like a warrior position doesn't it?) for the 651st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron's Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Kandahar Airfield.

We have the unenviable task of supporting the Navy-led Role 3 facility, the second busiest hospital in Afghanistan. Part of our support is off-loading the Army MEDEVAC helicopters that bring in the wounded from the battlefield. If you're wounded in Afghanistan and you make it to the Role 3 at KAF, you have a 98 percent survival rate. Depending on your injuries, and our unique capability to transform a C-130 Hercules into a flying ICU with our Critical Care Aeromedical Transport Teams , you will be on a plane bound for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany within 12 to 72 hours, if not sooner.

I've seen the medics under my charge off-load some of the worst injuries you can fathom and walk back from the flightline covered with the blood of heroes. We've moved too many young Americans that came to Afghanistan in perfect health and have flown them out with arms and legs blown off by IEDs and other injuries that will leave physical and emotional scars long after they've healed.

The day after I arrived in country a young soldier somewhere else in Afghanistan celebrated his twentieth birthday. Two days later he was being flown to Germany as a triple amputee having lost both of his legs and an arm in an IED blast. Quite frankly, as warrior medics nobody else sees the reality of war day after day like we do. The only ones closer to the action than us are our patients.

When I think of what it means to be a warrior I think of words like courage, honor, dignity and respect. It takes every one of those things and more to be a medic in the most dangerous place on earth. It takes courage to run to the flightline to off-load the helicopters knowing full well the devastation you are going to see and that you may be called upon to perform CPR or continue putting pressure on what was once a complete limb until you can drive the 500 yards to the ICU. It takes honor, dignity and respect to bring those same patients into your facility and treat them like family (or better).

Yes, our mission is emotionally and physically grueling but it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever had the privilege of being a part of. Every day I get to work with some of the finest men and women you will ever meet; people that embody our AF core values and are the first step in a long process of healing for our wounded warriors.

Case in point, on one of our most recent missions the young Army private we were transporting happened to mention that it was his birthday. Upon learning this the entire bus (my staff, volunteers and even other patients) began to sing happy birthday to him as we drove him to meet the C-130 that would take him to Bagram and then on to Landstuhl. It was a birthday he will never forget for many reasons, not the least of which is due in part to the courage, honor, dignity and respect of my staff of warrior medics.

From here forward in my career, when my line counterparts make fun of the warrior medics I will just shrug my shoulders and proudly say, "Yes, that is me!"

Editor's Note: Blair is the 22nd Medical Support Squadron Resource Management and Information Services Flight commander.