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Pave Hawks vital in medical evacuations
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- An Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk takes off for a medical evacuation mission as the sun sets over Bagram. Although primarily used for combat search and rescue, the Pave Hawk supplements the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawks in medical evacuations during night and marginal weather conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Samuel Morse)
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JET Airman renders combat first aid to Soldiers

Posted 10/16/2009   Updated 10/16/2009 Email story   Print story

    


by Captain Darrick Lee
Kapisa PRT Public Affairs Office


10/16/2009 - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- An Air Force medic applied combat first aid to Soldiers when their vehicle was attacked by an improvised explosive device in Kapisa Province, recently.

Senior Airman Ashley Jackson, a medic deployed from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska with Provincial Reconstruction Team Kapisa, was riding in a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle with Soldiers as part of a mounted combat patrol mission to inspect development projects in the province. The team had completed its mission near Shohki village and was returning to Bagram when the MRAP was targeted.

Airman Jackson, who frequently conducts combat patrols providing medical support to PRT members, remembers the incident vividly.

"While driving on a dirt road, we were slowing down to drive over a concrete patch when the IED went off," said Airman Jackson. "I remember getting jerked around the in vehicle and the rear of the MRAP, where I was seated, filled with dust," said the Lakeville, Minn., native.

After the blast, Airman Jackson said her first memory was that of Army Sgt. David Conrad, the truck commander. Sergeant Conrad was alerting the convoy over the radio, "We hit an IED! We hit an IED!"

For a few moments, she was dazed ... She recalls taking a second to wiggle her fingers and toes.

Discovering she wasn't badly hurt, she immediately began assessing the condition of the Soldiers she calls her "brothers."

Army Spc. Kenneth Harada, an infantryman with the PRT's security forces, was riding alongside Airman Jackson in the MRAP. Specialist Harada was visibly shaken and suffering from a mild concussion from the blast. According to Airman Jackson, Specialist Harada, after regaining his senses, grabbed his assault rifle and joined the rest of his team providing security of the scene, protecting the convoy against any potential hostile fire or complex attacks.

Airman Jackson took Specialist Harada's actions as a sign that he was not severely injured. After confirming that he and Sergeant Conrad were alright, she yelled out to the MRAP's driver, Spc. William Laing, and the crew's .50-caliber machine gunner (name withheld pending notification of family.)

"I didn't see any feet inside the turret, so I poked my head inside it," said Airman Jackson. "The restraint harness had worked, but I saw the gunner slumped over his gun, unresponsive."

She checked the gunner's airway, breathing and circulation; then she checked him for injuries. He didn't need a tourniquet, but his leg had a femur fracture. To get him onto a backboard, Airman Jackson had to get him out of the turret.

"I gave him morphine to prepare him for the pain he was about to experience when we removed him from the turret," said Airman Jackson. "I realigned his leg as best I could, trying not to cause any more damage."

With the help of the PRT's security forces, including Army Staff Sergeant Bryan Dykes, a reservist who serves as a paramedic in his civilian job, she got the gunner on a backboard and secured him to it.

Staff Sergeant Dykes and other PRT members then focused their attention on the driver, who managed to open the door of the destroyed vehicle. He was lying on the ground when Airman Jackson saw him.

"The driver was breathing and was responsive, but couldn't move," Airman Jackson said. "As I talked to him, he alerted me that he was in pain."

The MRAP, although completely destroyed, had functioned according to its design. All of its passengers were alive, but they needed more medical attention. Airman Jackson returned to tend to the gunner, while Staff Sergeant Dykes and other members of the convoy moved the driver and the truck commander near her, making it easier for her to monitor all of them in one central location.

While the team tended to the injured, the convoy commander, Army Sergeant Rob Feiser, radioed for help, summoning helicopters to medically evacuate the crew. Airman Jackson and Staff Sergeant Dykes monitored the injured until an Air Force pararescue team from the Bagram's 33rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron arrived a few minutes later.

During the flight to the hospital, she helped the pararescue team create a makeshift sling to limit movement of the injured until they arrived at the emergency room at Bagram. After thorough examinations, Airman Jackson and Specialst Harada were released, while Sergeant Conrad, Specialist Laing and the gunner remained to receive extensive care for more serious injuries.

Airman Jackson is grateful to have survived such an experience. She's also glad she was able to perform her job. Although she has received extensive training as a medic and has seen medical emergencies before, this was her first time performing combat life-saving skills in hostile territory.

"When I first received orders to Afghanistan, I thought that I would just be helping Afghan people. You know ... giving local children vaccinations and providing basic clinical care to impoverished communities in Afghanistan," said Airman Jackson. "It was when I went through three months of training with the Army at Camp Atterbury, Ind., that I realized my primary mission while deployed was to take care of my guys while our team goes outside the wire."

As PRTs venture into local communities to interact with the Afghan people, their movement to and from development sites is often the subject of insurgent attacks. The training she received at Camp Atterbury was Army-specific, focusing on mounted gunnery, combat life-saving skills, convoy operations and other traditional ground-combat techniques to help defend against such hostilities.

With this experience behind her, Airman Jackson says she is more confident now, knowing she won't "freeze up" and can perform when called upon. She urges other Air Force medics to prepare to do the same.

"Air Force medics need to know that we're a changing military ... We have different expectations now than we did a few years ago," Airman Jackson said. "In other words, they need to be ready to pick up a weapon and go outside the wire when called upon."

It was not long, in fact only a few days, before Airman Jackson did just that, donning her body armor, grabbing her weapons and going on patrol outside the wire with the PRT again. When asked how she felt about the remainder of her deployment in light of surviving an IED attack, she replied: "I need to take care of my brothers, and now I know I can do my job ... The rest of this deployment is going to be okay."



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