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March 13, 2012…Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Helmand  province, Afghanistan.  Early this morning I heard some feet  pounding on the plywood that leads outside the area I sleep at.   I awoke and jumped into my pants and slid my shoes on and  entered the operations tent.  I asked, "Is there a mission?"   "Yes", came the reply.  "Double amp".  I then grabbed my  camera, sprinted to the helicopter and buckled in.  It was not  yet 6:00 AM.  The sky was clear.  I had no coffee but was ready.   This was the beginning of the day. The previous day we had two missions.  One was a Georgian  soldier who had been bitten by a scorpion.  The Georgians have  seen lots of serious action over the course of time.  They have  been a loyal ally for the duration of the war.  They are also very  hard core.  The other mission was to pick up two bad guys that  had been shot while planting IED's.  A third bad was killed.   The two bad guys were medevaced to the facility that handles  more serious wounds.  I had been thinking that we only  medevac bad guys lately.  Never get complacent. As we finished getting our gear on and prepared to depart the  FOB, word came down that there would be a double amp, and  two other injured.  We would be going to a place where there  are serious things going on.  The crew today would be Mr. Seay the PIC, Major Holland the other pilot, crew chief Felicia Espinosa  and flight medic Zachary Menzie.  Also along would be Capt. Kraus, the flight nurse.  I would be in the middle seat just behind  the pilots.  Looking out the window I knew we were going to a different area.  It looked more manicured and the agricultural look to the  place was actually quite nice.  But then again I have a soft spot for the rural look about things and I really love desert farming.  It  reminds me of times gone by.  Many a time flying over this area I have the thought that I would love to just wander around  talking about farming with the locals.  It's been told to me that really isn't the brightest of ideas and deep down I know that to be  true.  But, given a different time and no war, I would enjoy the chance to just go exploring the locals and their way of life.  Not  gonna happen any time soon though. As we got closer to the LZ, the pilot began maneuvering in a combat mode.  From me, the passengers vantage point, it was  spectacular.  It is impossible to describe.  I have said it before many times…I love flying in helicopters.  I do believe it is part of  the reason I come to these kind of places.  Right before we arrived at the POI, the pilot pulled up and back and we floated right  to the exact spot we were supposed to like a feather on a perfectly calm day.    There was nothing calm outside the door.  Up came Afghan soldiers carrying their wounded.  Also with them were some Americans.  The Afghan soldiers here were not the  typical ones.  I knew who these folks were.  I had come across such folks on previous embeds up in Paktika province.  These  Afghan soldiers are excellent.  Each time I see them, I feel the war here is winnable. They are special soldiers.  And so are the  ones training them.  There is hope.  Problem is it comes with a high price. (Picture 1)  Immediately, three wounded were loaded onto the aircraft with their bedding as kind of  sling-litter.  In short order, the cabin was full and the injured were crammed in best they  could be.  The medic, Sgt. Menzie and the crew chief, Sgt Espinosa, began working  feverishly on the double amp patient.  (Pic 2)  (Pic3)  He was not in good shape.  The other  two did not look all that good either.  Accompanying them was one of their comrades who  looked to be Tajik.  I later found out that all four were Tajiks.    He was very concerned but completely controlled.  The look in his eyes was striking.  He  motioned to me several times about his one comrade that was not moving so well.  I tried  to motion to him not to worry.  I wanted to say in some language, "Don't worry son, it will  be alright.  These folks are good.  They'll take care of your brother in arms". I went back  to snapping photos. The light was low level and keeping the camera steady was tough again.  I've been told there are cameras that actually have this  thing built in them that takes away the shake, but, that seems to cost more than the price of a house.  I will continue to make do  with the equipment I have.  We pressed on to the FOB where the folks at the STP were waiting.  All along the way I kept realizing  that this is what war is all about.  There are scenes in my mind that for sure will not go away.  Trying to keep a soldier alive while  bouncing around in a helicopter over some land in Asia is something a lot of folks do not get to see.  It is however, exactly what I  came here to see.    We landed at the FOB and the medical folks all came out.  It was  actually coordinated well, but it was very busy.  Three injured  and lots of work to be done.  The injured are received first  outside the entrance and quickly evaluated for the extent of  their injuries.  Worst ones are taken first.  Clothes are cut off as  scissors are snapping away cloth like a buzz saw.  One patient is  taken in, then the other, then the other.  All three are now in the  hospital.  (Pic4) (Pic5)  Before they were taken in, I find myself taking photos of scenes  that are surreal.  As I am clicking away, I flash back to El  Salvador, 1988.  It is like I've been transported in a time warp,  yet fully aware of where I am.  It is like yesterday but 25-years  ago.  It is now today.  And here I am in Afghanistan capturing  with a camera what I thought I would. Never give up. Now I'm inside the make shift hospital.  Three patients are  tended to by dozens of folks all working promptly, but orderly.   Each bay is separate, but the whole team is in one accord.  It is  actually remarkable to see this.  In these kind of environments  the team concept is so real. It is another reason I come to these  places. My attention is focused on the first patient at the far end.  He is the double amp.  He is not looking good.  CPR is started.   Blood is drawn.  Blood is administered.  CPR continues.  The other two patients continue to be worked on.  X-rays are taken.   More blood.  Everyone is speaking at each bay in coordination with each team member.  The first patient is not doing well.  More  CPR.  It continues for 6-minutes.  I figure he will die.  I leave the hospital to go photograph outside the scene where nobody is  now.  I find the crew chief and later the medic.  I take both their photos.  It is not yet 7:00 AM.  (Picture 6 Hands) (Picture 7 Feet)   (Picture 8 CPR)   I learn later that the double amputee actually survived.  It is a miracle.  It is explained to me that these medical folks here never  give up.  This is good to know, especially if for some reason I become a "patient".  Things happen.  One never knows.    Later in the morning another call comes in.  It is to pick up a  civilian contractor at one of the FOB's.  He is not breathing well.   He may be in peril.  We load up and go get him.  He is brought  back to the FOB here and stabilized.  Later he is transported to  the big facility by helicopter again.  Still the day was not done. In the afternoon a call came about a Marine who had a gunshot  wound.  We loaded up and headed out.  We had to circle for a bit  and then were cleared to come in.  The Marine looked well, but  was shot in the upper arm.  He would be fine but needed to be  treated.  We got him in, closed the doors and headed back to the  FOB.  I snapped a lot of photos of him and even had him smile at  one point for the camera.  I thought that was cool.  Later I spoke  to him at the hospital and told him to email me and I would send  him the photo of him smiling and being treated at the same time.   Marines are tough.  (Picture 9, Shot in the Arm)  It is now  after 5:00 PM in the evening and there is still plenty of daylight left.  There  could be more missions.  It is definitely nicer weather now and it appears,  at least according to today's events, that things are picking up a bit,  medevac wise. I started this day without any coffee.  I've had some since.  I just finished  eating dinner. There were a couple of birds that came in to distribute  supplies and the like.  I had a chance to interview a few more New Mexico  guys that I had not met.  Many have heard now about me and are eager to  speak with me.  Everyone knows the historical context of things.    It is difficult to decide which photos to include.  There are too many.  Some  are good.  Some are even better.  I still fight the low light situations from  time to time.  It is becoming routine now for me to sprint to the aircraft  and be buckled in before some of the others now.  I'm never first, but I'm  not last, usually anymore.  It is fun to try and keep up.  This is a good place  to be for what I am doing.  There are times I feel inadequate in trying to  convey the scenes.  A lot happens in one day sometimes.    It's just a busy today. ***This is an addition to what was written.  After finishing this  writing, we got another medevac call.  Two Marines in an MRAP  hit an IED. We went to get them.  They could walk on.  The one  Marine with a few days growth on his beard appeared to me to  have a possible concussion.  He was in some serious pain in his  head.  He seemed ok, but he was in pain.  The other Marine was  a tall, young man who was dazed a bit.  He was not speaking.   He was just quiet.  But his left leg kept shaking the entire time  we were enroute to the larger medical facility.  It was obvious to  me that he had just been through something that for sure shook  him up.  He was so young looking and so quiet.  He was  concerned deeply for what had just happened to him and his  fellow Marine.  They will both be fine, but, I am thinking the  young Marine will need a few days to get over what he just went  through.  After we dropped the two Marines off and were heading back  now in the dark, we got a follow on mission, which means we  headed to another LZ.  It is dark now.  Word came there would  be two injured and one escort.  Turns out, all three were  injured.  These ones were from the place we went to at the crack  of dawn earlier this morning.  What I saw next before my eyes  moved me. Caution Graphic Picture (Pic 10 Double Amp Soldier)   (Picture 11 Bad Shape)  An Afghan soldier, who was among those from earlier today,  was brought into the helicopter.  It was dark, but these green  lights are on.  I can see, but cannot take a good photo without  much light.  He had two legs missing and part of one hand  missing.  His other hand was intact but mangled pretty bad.   The rest of his body was ok.  He looked at me strongly and  deeply.  I just looked back.  Then he would try to get up and  look at his legs that were not there.  He would reel in pain and  then lay back down and look at me again.  We just kept looking  at each other in the eyes.  I tried to take some photos holding  the camera as still as I could and not using any flash.  The  green lights help a little and the medic and nurse had small  head lamps that lit the area up just a little.  I tried hard to take  some photos but I always came back to having eye contact with  this soldier.  I truly felt his pain.  That has never happened to  me before.  There was nothing I could do but just look in his  eyes and pray inwardly that his pain would ease.  We brought the three back to the FOB where I entered the  medical facility and stayed for about 30-minutes witnessing  what real good medical folks do here to help really badly  injured people.  It was all very serious, yet flowed smoothly.   There is no time for anything else in such situations other than  doing one's job to their finest.    It is 11:00 PM and I still hear helicopters shuttling patients from  here to the other facility a ways away.  It has been a very long  day and night.  It is expected to continue.  I am tired now.  I  took a lot of photographs today and saw a lot of things.    This is FOB Edinburgh, Afghanistan.  Jim Spiri jimspiri@yahoo.com            
Ten Years Later #15  "Busy"
Photo #16...Working on the ANA soldier. Photos by Jim Spiri, SPIRI FREELANCE, March 13, 2012
Sgt Menzie (R) and Sgt Hayes (L) carry the injured ANA by blanket to STP upon arrival of medevac helicopter another mission later that day was to medevac a civillian contractor who was having much difficulty breathing Sgt Menzie pulls security as wounded Marine is brought to helicopter
Wounded ANA soldier that lost both legs is prepared outside the STP at FOB Edinburgh
Sgt. Felicia Espinosa
Sgt. Felicia Espinosa at the end of the first mission where there was a double amputee, and two other ANA soldiers that had gunshot wound.  
Sgt Zach Menzie,
Sgt Zach Menzie, seen here walking back from the medical facility where all the injured are treated.  Photo by Jim Spiri, SPIRI FREELANCE, March 13, 2012
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