Monday, September 28, 2009

All in a day's work

As you look at these photos, I’m sure you wonder what an Air Force nurse practitioner is doing flying around Afghanistan in a Blackhawk helicopter. This is one of the best, yet little known, benefits of my current position. In addition to providing medical support to our driving missions throughout the province, we occasionally put together air-assault missions. When we do, one of us medics generally goes along, “just in case.” Our soldiers are well trained in combat lifesaver skills (see prior post) but when things go wrong, the first thing they usually yell is “Medic!” and they like to know we are there to help.

Our mission last Thursday was to the western region of a province we are in the process of handing off to a new PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team). To do the handoff appropriately, we needed to perform quality assurance checks on these projects, but driving would take several days, and there was no guarantee we could reach all the destinations. Because of safety concerns, we have started using only MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) trucks and there is some belief that they are too large to navigate the terrain.

I have to admit flying is much better than driving. In addition to the adrenalin rush, we were able to see the three projects in just a few hours. As the mission medic, I carried enough supplies to treat the soldiers, if needed, including intubation equipment and pain medications. I also went fully armed and was responsible for additional security at each objective (not your typical day as an NP!).

Thankfully, the mission ended up being routine and, other than a couple hard landings, we had no incidents. I managed to jump in and out of the helicopter every time, without seriously hurting myself. I did wound my pride—and bruised my ribs—when I jumped out of the Helo, threw myself forward a few steps and landed in a “defensive fighting position.” Apparently, I was supposed to land on my knees, elbows and the butt stock of my rifle rather than my abdomen/chest. Oh, well, lesson learned!

I have a few days to recover while the rest of the team conducts a series of missions. Then, it will be back to work for a few days prior to the start of my leave (two weeks alone with my spouse in Germany!!!). More to come as the adventures continue.


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