Night Mission Story #13
TEN YEARS LATER #13 The Expense
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March 11, 2012…Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Helmand  province, Afghanistan…Sunday again.  It is the one day that I seem to  not lose track of.  The others are all a blur.  The mornings are brisk  with a breeze and the daytimes are mild.  Skies have been clear and the  mountains were able to be seen lately in all directions.  The snow that  covered the ones in the far off distance has mostly melted now.  Dust  is beginning to obscure the view today.  Here comes summer.    The past few days have been relatively uneventful as far as missions  go.  Once again, no American casualties have been medevaced  originating from this location except one that was injured by a booby  trapped door on a local's home.  The Marine sustained a broken upper  arm as well as a laceration.  It was a night mission.  Taking photos at  night is nearly impossible.  There are light restrictions which cannot be  fudged for safety reasons.    I was thinking back to what an artist does with his work.  Sometimes he  just paints because he has to.  Then he puts the finished work in some  corner in the storage shed and never looks at it again.  But the painting  is there and one day someone may come across it and see it and really  appreciate it.  My good friend LB, who has been painting for longer  than I've been alive, tells me I'm an artist.  He bases that on things he  knows about me and the work I've shown him.  I look forward to having a bottle of wine with LB upon my return and showing him some  "artwork" that others will never see.  LB is a good friend.    The events of the past few days have been mostly transporting injured  locals that find themselves in all kinds of quandaries.  Lots of vehicle  accidents as well as other things.  There is a set of circumstances and  procedures that usually must be met before any medevac mission is  launched.  How those determinations are met are not completely clear  to me.  From the vantage point I am in, it simply boils down to, a  person is hurt, a call comes in and the medevac resources are  dispatched and the patient is picked up.  That is all I know.    Case in point.  A call came in last evening that a local national had  been shot in the face.  The process began and two medevac helicopters  from here were dispatched to pick up the "patient".  This is routine.   Also in the night sky, were other aviation assets that were in proximity.   So, for arguments sake, a handful of helicopters were dispatched for a  call to pick up a "patient".  Now as more information came forth it was  determined that the patient had done something not so bright in order  to end up being shot in the face by the Afghan National Army soldier,  (ANA).  Turns out that the local national decided to run a checkpoint  operated by the ANA.  Let me review…. Local Afghan resources participate in taking responsibility for their  own security.  ANA soldier does his job, shoots bad guy trying to bust  through check point.  Bad guy sustains bullet wound to face.  This  would have been the end of the story if indeed the Afghan system was  allowed to function on its own.  The bad guy would probably have died  and others would be hesitant to run the check point next time.  However, that is not what happens, yet. Currently, hundreds of thousands of dollars of US assets are employed  to save bad guys life.  This is just to pick up the patient.  Then, once  he is picked up, he is brought to the medical facility here where dozens  of US medical personnel frantically exercise their skills to save this  person's life.  Hours go by, patient is stabilized and then once again  patient is air transported to another medical facility where additional  first class medical attention is rendered to bad guy.  Again, thousands  and thousands of dollars expended working on severely injured bad  guy.   It is an amazing system. Bad guy gets incredible health care in  the war zone while back at home, 50-million Americans go uninsured  and are turned away from time to time just for being sick.  Maybe the  uninsured in America should learn to run through checkpoints if they  get sick and are in need of medical attention.    I'm just sayin'….. In the past few days, I've seen lots of medical attention being given to  local Afghans who otherwise would have to fend for themselves.  It is  not my intention to pass judgement on this matter.  Rather, it is  something that I see here and what the folks back home may not be  aware of.  Whether it is right or wrong, good or bad, affordable or too  expensive, is not something I am employed to decide.  This is just what  I see going on ten years later here in the war in Afghanistan.  Maybe those making decisions in Washington D.C.  about things here  aren't aware of what is going on.  Maybe they are.  Maybe it is related  to the whole hearts and minds thing. Maybe it is because it is an  election year.  Whatever the case may be, at some point in time,  whether in the near or not so near future, the Afghan population will  have to care for their own people when shot by their own people or  when in vehicle accidents with each other.    On a night mission it is very difficult to take a good photograph  without using a blinding flash, which is strictly prohibited. This is why I then go to plan "B" which is to take photos at the STP here on the FOB  after the patient is unloaded from the helicopter and I then exit the  aircraft as well.  The medical folks in charge arranged for me to be  approved to be able to document what they do when their skills are  called upon.  I've been in these environments many, many times over  the course of the past ten years.  It is nothing new to me.  It's not my  first rodeo.  I know how to stand back out of the way and take a  photograph without flash.  It is one of the few things I do well once in  a while.  In between things here at the FOB, basketball on the television is a big  thing.  It is coming up on March madness and the University of New  Mexico Lobo men's basketball team just won the Mountain West  conference championship.  Most everybody here was up in the middle  of the night watching the game.  I chose to sleep.  I knew I needed to  be fresh in the morning in order to get things done on my end.  But it  is fun to see everyone talking about the Lobos winning and how they  will fare in the NCAA tournament.  In the mean time, there may or may not be missions today.  The air is  ugly and visibility is nearly nil at the moment.  There has been lots of  rotor noise at night that once in a while wakes me up.  In a war zone, it  is always busy, somewhere.  Where I am is one of those places that it is  busy often.  Thankfully, it has not been so busy shuttling wounded  Marines to medical attention.  I believe however, those times are  coming because the weather is getting warmer.  Until that time comes,  I will find other things to share with the audience.    Ten years later, here in the war in Afghanistan, there are still plenty of  good stories.    Jim Spiri                      
All photo’s and Website © 2012, All Rights Reserved
The vantage point for March 6, 2012 on a walk around the block.  SPIRI FREELANCE Patient was shot in the face by ANA soldier when the local man refused to stop at an ANA manned checkpoint night shot prior to launching for medevac mission to pick up local shot in the face
Another night shot.  SPIRI FREELANCE
Local Afghan man seen here at medical facility receiving treatment.  Patient was shot in the face by ANA soldier when the local man refused to stop at an ANA manned checkpoint March 10, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
Patient was shot in the face by ANA soldier when the local man refused to stop at an ANA manned checkpoint
Local Afghan man who ran ANA checkpoint and was shot in face for doing so by ANA troops, is seen here receiving medical treatment by US forces. March 10, 2012  SPIRI FREELANCE
NM Guard soldiers watching Lobo basketball game
#11 Sunset #12 Forest #13 The Expense #14 Crew Duties #15 Busy #16 The Hat #17 Family #18 Change #19 Go...! #20 Left Edinburgh British Lynx helicopter at the FOB
British Lynx helicopter at the FOB -  SPIRI FREELANCE
Spc Jesse Ochoa is seen inspecting UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.
Spc Jesse Ochoa is seen inspecting UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter.  SPIRI FREELANCE.
Maj. Holland, commander of the C-company
Maj. Holland, commander of the C-company, NM Guard, is seen addressing his soldiers about their missions here in Afghanistan at FOB Edinburgh  SPIR FREELANCE
NM Guard soldiers watching Lobo basketball game Electronically Enhanced Night Shot
Night Mission - Photo as recieved by Jim Spiri, March 10, 2112 SPIRI FREELANCE - Note same picture upper left that has been electronically enhanced.
Camel train...This is a scene right outside the FOB.  It is like something right out of a millenium ago.
Afghan boy that is tending sheep right  next to FOB
Night shot prior to launching for medevac mission to pick up local shot in the face  SPIRI FREELANCE
Afghan boy that is tending sheep right  next to FOB Camel train...This is a scene right outside the FOB. In Memory of Don Viray Freelance AUDIO (A) 2/28 - 3/4 AUDIO (B) 3/5 - 3/19 AUDIO (C) 3/20 to 3/28 AUDIO (D) 3/29 to ... HOME #13 The Expense