It was January 19, 2010. Operation Mostarak would begin in less than a month, with the mission of US Marines moving into the Taliban infested Helmand Province, and particularly Marjah. Marine Commanders didn't promise to bring everyone home, but forthrightly told their Marines, there would be fatalities. It wouldn't be an easy walk in the park, but a bold strike into the Heart of Taliban held poppy territory. It wasn't a secret operation. The American Military boldly told the world the Marines were coming, allowing the civilians to leave the battlefield until the area was secure. The move dared the Taliban to fight.
82nd Combat Aviation Brigade (Airborne) ran Aviation Operations in Regional Command-South as well as parts of RC-West, including the area to be called FOB Pasab, but then known as Patrol Base Wilson, under the command of our Canadian Allies.It was shift change, around 5pm local, and the DustOff crews knew they'd soon be needed. They were ready. They had finished their brief and were conducting pre-operation flight checks when the call came. And more than one crew would be needed. There were multiple casaulties and the 1st bird up would not be the last bird out. SSG Brian Cowdrey was the first of his unit on the ground, and he has shared the experiences of his job, of his passion, with me.
He doesn't do it for fame or glory, but to tell the story of the modern MedEvac, the things Our Dustoff crews do on a regular basis. He wants American Mothers, Brothers, Sisters, and Fathers to know: Our Medics will do everything in their power to bring home Our Troops, in the very best condition they can. Our Medics will risk everything, to complete that mission.
As the first on scene, it was his job to assess the priority of evacuation. As he left the bird, he saw his potential cover, a ditch, which he'd have to cross to get to his patients. If the enemy attacked, this is where he could take his patients until he could get them out. It was all he had. There were a couple of plowed poppy fields and a road, nothing else of consequence, close enough to them and far enough from the bad guys.
The Troops were dismounted, walking, when the explosion occurred. The only protection they had was the body armor they wore. The armor of an MRAP, a tank, or an UpArmored HumVee wasn't available for their kind of mission. Some things have to be done face to face, not from behind 2 inch thick glass.
He found the narrowest path across the ditch to his patients. When dealing with open wounds, dirt is the enemy. When moving patients to the bird, jostling them must be kept to a minimum.
There were 4 patients. He assessed quickly. One was walking wounded, an Afghan soldier with serious disorientation from the explosion. Another was responsive but suffered partial amputations and heavy shrapnel wounds. Two were expectant. It would be a lot of work, but he decided if he got the one in the air, he could probably save him. It was a good sign, the patient asked for a status of his family jewels. Brian gave him the thumbs up. Things might be bad, but the important stuff was still there. Shock had not yet set in, but it would soon. The ground medic had done a great job. Tourniquets were on and holding in the fluids they could.
The 2nd bird was finally there, but he could have the one to the Hospital sooner than the other bird could take off. He had to get this patient to a Role III hospital and quick.
He ordered the patient to be loaded and grabbed the wounded ANA as the 2nd patient of his flight. The ANA soldier would need treatment, but it could wait until they arrived at the Hospital, while the other patient needed treatment to get to the Hospital. He was one medic, with two hands, and he'd need his full mind on this patient to get him home, alive.
As he ordered the evacuations of his patients, another UH-60 circled overhead, along with some OH-58's. His concentration on the patients allowed him to escape the reality of 3 Taliban maneuvering and firing on him, and their demise by the pilot in the OH-58. On this day, SSG Cowdrey's unflinching care, was not so much ignoring the enemy, but ignorance that the enemy was shooting. The Kiowa took the Talib out, just 100 meters away from his patients.
As he loaded out his patients, his fellow medic was loading the first of two into the other bird. The crew chief began helping to check for working tourniquets, while SSG Cowdrey cut away the remaining clothes. A Danish medic was left to caring for the disoriented ANA soldier. Brian got the IV started, which allowed him to get some pain killers pumped in and meds to prevent shock. He pushed some anti-biotics as dirt is an enemy ripe with nasty things.
The crew chief kept the patient talking, put on the oxygen mask, and it was time to get him warm. A pair of good old wool Army blankets does the trick and soon the 8 minute flight was over. It had been less than 15 since he had stepped off the bird onto what he didn't know was a Hot LZ. It would be less than 10 more before the patient was on the operating table. Again, this crew had gotten another patient to the Surgical unit well within the "Golden Hour."
This patient would live. He would have challenges ahead of him. It would be a hard road, but we have been able to confirm he is overcoming the difficulties. This patient is not named and others involved are not named, because they have not given permission to be named.
Assoluta Tranquillita has known Brian for a long time: http://assolutatranquillita.blogspot.com/2011/10/ssg-brian-cowdrey-who-shall-i-send.html