0700 in the morning hangs on the cusp of night and day. It is light, pearly grey from the dense overhead clouds and the security lights have dimmed. The birds are screeching overhead as they wheel between the trees, their lives disrupted by the soldiers leaving the clamshell after early work outs.
I pass almost no one as I walk from my BHut to Four Corners. There is no snow; the temperature having stayed at that lovely level where we are all chilled to the bone. Just before I get to Disney, the front door of the ADTs Company HQ opens. Filing out is a line of men, full gear, heavily weaponed on their way to their MRAPs. They spend mission after mission outside the wire.
The mud and water splash from joggers, runners and the occasional vehicle on Disney for it is still PT time and exercise has priority. Heading toward the USO and the PAX terminal, the ground shakes as two fighters scream along the runway heading up and out on their patrols. I can hear the announcements for the flights – or lack there of as a quiet voice telling those Kandahar bound that their flight has been cancelled. “Check the board to the left of the counter” she advises “there maybe flights later today.”
All around me are soldiers with IBA, kevlar, weapons ranging from 9mm to heavy assault rifles and machine guns. Marines, sailors, airman without weapons hopeful that their flight to Kuwait, R&R in the near future, is not cancelled or delayed for weather.
I wonder at the arrogance of the visiting team of experts from the Pentagon. They have their agenda, thoroughly convinced that they know better than those of us hear in theater. So sure that this is a mature theater; that there are no restrictions on health care. Completely convinced that we can do anything and support anything.
Meanwhile, I am thinking of the cases we reviewed in last night’s VTC. Not all the trauma in theater, just the most critical cases. Doctors, nurses, techs, medics, support staff from the US across the theater discussing each case from point of injury to receiving hospital in the US. The US based participations letting us know how each of them is now doing. All of us looking to make the care better; understanding the limitations of transportation, distance, and the acuteness of the need. Cases that represent gunshot wounds, IED blasts mounted and dismounted; young men who came intact and are leaving theater paralysed or missing three limbs.
The USO is full of able bodied service members looking for internet access, a cup of coffee, a phone to call home. All of them know the risks they are taking just flying from Bagram to another locations. Our team of experts gets rapidly passed along; easier on hosts to deal and move along rather than have to take their eyes off the war to entertain and explain. The downside for all of us is that it leaves an unreal expectation of how the theater operates.
I don’t wish them a mortar attack or any danger. At the same time – they need to understand that there is a war going on. Each and every day service members are at risk both on patrols and on each one of the bases. We do medical care that is needed. We don’t do procedures, surgical or diagnostic, that don’t benefit that particular troop. The attention is on combat casualty care, to do the best possible to mitigate horrendous injuries. Research diagnostics?
An MRI? I don’t think so.