I went to a change-of-command ceremony for the Route Clearance Patrol unit at FOB Ghazni. This is the sapper unit that clears bombs from roads in Afghanistan. Their commander was relieved by his replacement on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, Dec 7th. I respect this commander a lot because he is always there to support any of his soldiers that come our way. I've had him hold pressure on wounds, tape IVs in, cut off bloody uniforms, etc. (When you are in my trauma bay, I don't care who you are. There is a bleeding soldier and I need your hands. I've drawn some sideways looks by asking the commander of the entire base to help carry a litter. I felt vindicated when he thanked us later for letting him "be with my guys.")
This unit has cleared 19,000 km of roads, been the victim of over 50 explosives and 39 firefights. One of these firefights was an Taliban ambush of 120 against their own 30, in which all of the US soldiers survived. You can see in the background the Afghan National Army unit being trained to someday clear roads on their own.
The outgoing commander acknowledged the generals, colonels, and command sergeant majors briefly, and then spent over 3 minutes of his 10-minute speech thanking the FST (Forward Surgical Team, my unit). This was a touching surprise, as we are usually the embarassing Air Force stepchild on the Army base, because we do things like sport mohawks for a few hours, and shoot stuffed animals at the range. But there is sort of a special bond between our units: they appreciate us fixing them up when they are hurt, and we really appreciate them going out everyday to face hidden explosives.
Even more welcome and unexpected was some news about one of his soldiers. The blood on my "boots" came from a soldier belonging to this unit (see Sep 29 entry and http://www.katc.com/gallery-images/pfc-bret-j-menard/20/) as did three other fallen soldiers pictured earlier in this blog. I learned that PFC Menard is not only still alive, but sits up in a chair, motions for his glasses to look at pictures, and will soon have his tracheostomy (tube in his neck to help him breathe) removed and start speech therapy. I lost count of how many times this hero's heart stopped, and somehow fought back into a rhythm again. But it was at least 6 or 7 just during his time here.
This made my day.
As I near the midpoint of my deployment on Dec 10th ,my thoughts also turned to Sgt Lyons, ("Sacrifice, Oct 26, http://www.dvidshub.net/news/79695/seaside-park-native-killed-eastern-afghanistan) whom we were not able to save. I still grieve for him and his family, and still admire his bravery for choosing a job as dangerous as his.
We are almost finished constructing a new building to expand the amount of patients we can take in the event of a mass casualty. I say "we" because the contractors built the structure but my team has to build the walkway and finish the inside. I cut the last of the flooring material today, and hope to glue it down tomorrow and start building shelving units next week. I have proposed to my team that we call it "Lyons' Den."