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Ten Years Later #17 "The Family"
March 18, 2012…Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, Helmand province,  Afghanistan…Sunday again in Afghanistan.  The UNM Lobos got beat.   There goes my bracket.  I just don't do well when I bet my heart instead of  my mind.  It is probably why I never was a bookie. There was one mission yesterday to medevac an ANA soldier that was on  the receiving end of a grenade, so the story goes.  He had some head  damage and was bleeding somewhat.  He looked out of it but will probably  be ok.  We arrived at the POI which was at a mud walled compound with  some crops growing around it.  The area had been irrigated and the mud  was extensive.  When the Marines brought the injured soldier to the  helicopter, I could tell immediately that slogging around in the mud was  not so easy.  The dirt here, when wet becomes like glue and it is difficult to  walk through. Watching the litter bearers negotiate the carry made me think what would  happen if the patient was dropped.  The LZ obviously had some activity  close by as I watched the Marines and ANA out my window upon approach  maintain a security perimeter as we landed.  I thought back to how much I  appreciated my previous embeds with Marines on foot patrols in this province.   Sgt Menzie exited the aircraft and assisted in the retrieving of the injured  ANA soldier.  Once loaded into the helicopter, both Menzie and Captain  Krause began working on the patient and assessing his injuries.  The two  worked well together and the crew chief, Sgt Espinosa assisted as called  upon while we were en-route to the large medical facility that handles head  trauma.  Pilots Doo and Magill exercised their skills in the murky colored  sky which was filled with dust, a common sight around here lately. My time here is rapidly drawing to a close.  It looks as though I will have  one more week with these guys before I must begin my trek back to Kabul  in order to exit the country on time according to my plane reservations.  I  only wish that I would have been allowed to fly mil air out of theater which  would give me a little more time to complete the project I'm on.  In the  past, I was able to fly out of here on C-5's or C-17's which daily leave the  country to points beyond.  There are always empty seats and most of the  time these aircraft fly empty.  Why I cannot fly on one of these is according  to some Air Force regulation that baffles me.  In any event, I will fly out as I  flew in utilizing the commercial side of things here in Afghanistan.  It  should be interesting given the increased complications of things between  Washington and Kabul lately with Karzi and the Obama administration  having a war of words of sorts with each other due to recent tragic events.   I've been through a lot of airports in my day, Kabul included.  We'll see  what happens this time.  Soon, the guys I'm with here will be heading home sometime after I  depart.  I've been watching them begin to prepare for the change of pace  that will be coming upon them when they arrive home.  The hard part  about doing these embeds is always just getting here.  Yet, even harder is  leaving.  Once one becomes blended with a unit and becomes kind of a  part of the mission, it is difficult to let go.  This is how I feel once again.  I  have almost completed an embed that I thought about doing for a long,  long time. Although I had an idea of what medevac did since I was age 12  watching them on TV in 1968 during the Viet Nam war, I really had no  idea how tightly knit this Dustoff family is.    Family. That is how I must describe the folks I've come accustomed to being among.  In the past, I had seen the war from the ground over  a course of several years. It ranged from working in Iraq on flight lines as a civilian, loading wounded onto jets headed for  Germany, to eventually embedding with units both Army and Marine and patrolling on foot in bandit country both in Iraq and  Afghanistan.  Yet, what was missing from the whole experience was the Dustoff side of the war(s).  I knew I had to come and do  this.  It completes the "painting" so to speak.   Where else would I find people nearly my own age having given up the comforts of home and paying a price to join the New Mexico National Guard. All in hopes of being able to serve one tour of duty picking up people off the battlefields, swooping down in the  midst of hostile territory just to try and save the lives of folks they don't even know.  It is here at the Dustoff family at "Edi" that  the men and women of the NM, MN and AZ National Guard spend their every waking moment for the past year, at the ready hoping  to sprint to their big, green flying machine to help save a life of a comrade in arms.  Just hearing the three words in rapid  succession: "MEDEVAC…MEDEVAC…MEDEVAC", changes an entire day in two seconds.    Nowhere else is there such a place that in one moment, a group of people could be hangin' out taking care of any number of daily  tasks and in the next nano second loaded into a helicopter lifting off in the dust to another unknown point of injury that no one is  ever sure what awaits them upon landing.  I have yet to see anyone complain about doing a mission.  The only complaint I perceive  is not being able to do their mission because of the task being given to some other medical evacuation entity in country other than  Dustoff.   In the current climate of the medevac world operating throughout the war on terror in Afghanistan, whether it be Army or Air  Force, American or British, there seems to be a tug of war of competing entities to pick up wounded. When I arrived in country  around mid-February, I saw in a Stars and Stripes newspaper a huge front-page article about the controversy of whether to arm or  not to arm medevac helicopters. So it became clear to me that I had once again stumbled into the middle of a forest through a  bunch of trees.    Sometimes my timing is incredible.  I don't have much to say about whether or not arming or not arming  medevac missions is a good idea or not.  It is a war.  When I was 12-  years-old, I remember vividly seeing footage of medevac helicopters  picking up wounded while the door gunners fired away.  I know  already that some medevac missions that have been completed by  Dustoff here, were done so under extremely hazardous conditions.  I  also know that in today's Dustoff, the crew chief and medic work as  one on many occasions. Throwing into the mix more crew members  may complicate things.  There are other assets available currently  that are and continue to be utilized during Dustoff missions now.   Dustoff has been around for while.  Longer than most of the current  crews have been alive.  This issue and any other issue related to  medevac operations in the war zone here, should probably be left up  to the Dustoff community.  That seems to me to be the most  reasonable thing to do. They are usually in and out of a POI already  in the process of saving lives, long before others can be on scene.  I  think they pretty much know what they are doing.  "If it ain't broke,  don't fix it".  This is what I have observed. The weather is hot today.  The air conditioners that work have been  turned on.  So far, it's been quiet and the sky is once again ugly.   We'll see what happens next.  One week left unless something  unexpected comes to pass. In the mean time, I'll just be here taking  care of "family business".    Jim Spiri jimspiri@yahoo.com  
THE CREW, The family.
POI on March 17,2012
Above: The POI on March 17, 2012, where we picked up a wounded ANA soldier Below:The view the pilots have at the POI
Wounded ANA being loaded onto helicopter Wounded ANA in the helicopter Sgt. Zachary Menzie working on wounded ANA Capt. Andrew Krause works to assist wounded ANA soldier Sgt Menzie continues to work on ANA soldier as we are in route to medical facility Sgt Menzie in the zone working. Sgt. Menzie in the middle of working on wounded ANA soldier Capt. Krause, front and Sgt Menzie, back working on the patient in a team effort Sgt Menzie again. Refueling the helicopter after mission completion Captain Kevin Doo, the one in charge here at FOB Edi.
Me with two workers here on the the FOB who are from Kenya
SSGT Bowen and Spc. Tosa, receive book from fellow soldier from Minnesota or how to talk "Minnesotan".
Blackhawk loaded up with belongings of soldiers
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