Flew my first day mission a few days ago. Iraqi Police came in with a gunshot wound to his abdomen. After three hours in the OR, we had to remove his spleen and part of his pancrease. There was shrapnel lodged near his vertebra, but we were able to safely remove it without causing any neurological compromise. He ended up losing a lot of blood before and during the case, and we couldn't wait until nightfall to fly him to Al Asad.
D squared, Eric, and Mark helped me package him up for the flight. Then I drop the "nine line" with the evacuation team and we wait for aeromedical evacuation support. If it happens to be a day flight, the Marine Corps takes responsibility and will usually send an H-46 Sea Knight. At night, the Army responds with a Blackhawk that is specially outfitted with an "H carousel" for medical evacuation.
Sure enough, as the little black dots race into our helo pad, a Sea Knight touches down so I can fly my patient to Al Asad. As an escort, a Cobra Gunship touches down next to us.
The patient was stable for the flight. He isn't out of the woods, so to speak, but we have a good feeling he will do well. The Army 399th CSH at Al Asad is an impressive facility with dedicated staff and deep resources.
The Iraqi landscape is beautiful, and I was thinking about how I finally got the opportunity to see it in daylight. Too bad my camera batteries died on the helo pad right before takeoff. The photo ops would have been excellent on my return flight, since my only responsibility would have been to sight see.
The desert from 2000 feet in the air looked like a scene from the movie Dune. Every conceivable shade of tan, with burnt orange streaks running through numerous steppes and crevasses as if it were trying to carve out its own existence. We stick to the decidedly unpopulated routes for obvious reasons, but can't completely avoid small villages and outposts. I saw a few bombed out abandoned homesteads, but also saw a few outposts along a major highway that were thriving with activity and trucking. Most of the architecture is simple: concrete block or other hardened material. Others, however, were quite striking: they looked inspired by the Georgian Revival style. Two story with a large oval overhang from the front supported by 4-6 colonnades with a grand porch mirroring the overhang.
Cobra gunship flying as our wingman. He's to the right and just aft (behind), occasionally veering off to evaluate potential threats. The sun is positioned perfectly, and I can see both of our shadows silhouetted on the desert floor as we race along to Asad.
Another interesting sight was an abandoned train station. The station itself was completely intact, having escaped damage from the war. But the access road from the main highway had craters from rockets that perfectly prevented a vehicle from passing from the road to the station. I was thinking about how it was going to be cheaper and easier to repair the road compared rebuilding the station......I'll take the little victories along with any big ones that come our way, too.