Sitting at my desk writing letters after lunch when the biggest crunch yet flings things off my shelf. D squared and I look at each other for a milisecond, jump up, and run out of the hut to go to Charlie Medical for our flak and kevlar. We take a quick look up and see the plum of smoke just a short distance past some barracks.
I jump on the HESCO barrier and snap a quick picture, D squared on my heels. "You know we are supposed to get our asses down when we hear an explosion, not climb shit to see what's going on!" I say to him. He laughs, and we mock our own stupidity as we make our way to the hospital backside. For those who now want to throttle me: the detonation already happened......trust me, I hear whizzing overhead I'm not the guy looking over the berm for a peek.
"VBIED attack right outside the gates. At least a dozen patients in route." the Army TOC says. Radios are crackling and humming to life as information starts pouring in. Better go drain the bladder; bad guys just ruined my day. Within minutes, patients come in groups of 2-4 on M-113's, Iraqi Police Vehicles, and humvees. I start roving around like a hired gun: sticking IV's, airway managment, initial assessments, pushing drugs, hanging antibiotics, pulling patients out of vehicles, preparing intubated patients for flight. Trying to make triage decisions about where they should go when they come in.........
Security is crawling around Charlie Medical this time. Marines and Army infantry with weapons at condition one (locked and loaded). Iraqi Police streaming in with patients-no time to clear weapons, everyone on edge.....second VBIED strikes somewhere else in the city as we treat the initial injured....thoughts of when it's going to end.
Children coming in. They all look OK. Minor lacerations here, little bumps and scrapes there. Smiling at me as I give one a hug. Small miracles in small packages.
Insurgents strike at the soft and vulnerable underbelly of the civilian population. Their only purpose is to create chaos and instability. Today was a restaurant. Charlie Medical and the surgical teams treat 39 casualties before it's all said and done. No chlorine this time, thankfully.
Indiscriminant, without warning, and senseless. On one hand, we are proud to be here serving. Medical services to all comers: civilian, children, Iraqi forces. At the same time, team members expressing frustration at our inability to slow the violence. All the infrastructure we are dedicating to the Iraqi people, wiped out in an instant of flying debris, burning tissue, lives transformed to ruin. And for what?
It's 10:30 PM and I'm trying to put some final edits on this entry when the "big voice" starts bleating "incoming-incoming-incoming, I say again: incoming-incoming-incoming". The team sinks with dread as we hold tight for the all-clear signal and word of injuries. Tim can't wait, and gets out of bed and heads to Tactical Command. No casualties. 11:30 PM, and we start all over again "incoming-incoming-incoming, incoming-incoming". Nothing this time either, the only casualty being the sleep I was hoping to salvage after a long and emotionally draining day.
Funny thing about the big voice: It's almost the antithesis of actual incoming.....