Saturday, January 17, 2009

Still moving...kind of

Overall, the trip to Afghanistan has gone well. It has been somewhat of a tour de force. We (me and a DC-10 full of military members, dependents, government contractors) left BWI at around midnight on 15 Jan 09. We flew to Ramstein AFB where we had a 2 hour layover for refueling the jet. While there I ran into Dr. C. He is a Trauma Surgeon at Wilford Hall. He left almost a week before me to check out the way the trauma system runs at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, since many of our patients (US soldiers) will eventually be transferred here on their way back to the states. The way the military trauma system has been set up during these conflicts is really amazing; simplified, soldiers are cared for in the field by medics and brought to a Forward Operating Base (where I will be). We stabilize them and then ship them to the next level of care, in my case Bagram AFB. They are then re-assessed, stabilized, and transported by flying ICU's to Landstuhl, where the process is repeated, and they are then sent back to the states. All in all, most of the US injured are within the continental US in about 72 hours. This has greatly reduced the mortality rate to around 1/15 injured.

After our break at Ramstein, we travelled to Adanas, Turkey, again for refueling. We were there another 2 hours. I was able to call and talk to Kristen, which was nice. It was then off to Manas AFB, another 4 ½ hour flight. During the flights I have had the privilege to talk to many different people. "Rog" was a bearded member of the special forces. Let me tell you, the moment I saw him I knew that he was a real life "Jack Bauer" and could probably snap my neck with his little pinky finger. Another, 1st Lt Miles is from Georgia, is in the military police. He is also on his way to Camp Salerno. Hopefully, our paths will only cross at the work-out facility or in the dining facility (DFAC). We finally arrived at 6:30 AM after a total of 5 hot meals and 5 – 6 movies. We were briefed on the rules and what we needed to accomplish while there. It was then pretty much "hurry up and wait." (The AF is really good at that). We are basically in a way station to Afghanistan. Manas AFB is located in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. It is really cold, 1 degree today! The accommodations aren't bad. I share a room with 2 other Gentlemen. One is a young man who use to be in the military, but now works as a DOD civilian in military intelligence (T). The other is a retired commander from the British Royal Navy. He also works as a civilian contractor in military intelligence (J). Mainly, all I have been doing is waiting. I have had many meals at the DFAC, some are better than others.

lovely accomodations

At one of my meals I ran into two additional surgeons going to Balram, Dr. M is a general surgeon. He has about a year left, and believe it or not will be taking a job at the new Riverton Hospital. He lives in Dayton, Ohio, and has family ties to SLC, Utah. Small world. The other, Dr. B, is an orthopedic surgeon from Eglin AFB, Florida. I met him while teaching an EMEDS course in December. Again, small world. It's nice to know who will be taking care of folks I send to Balgram. Anyway, today is full of more dragging my bags around (now a total of 5 bulging, heavy bags, mostly full of things I hope I never have to use), waiting in line, then off to Bagram. We'll fly in on a C17. It's supposed to be a pretty fun ride as they basically dive down to the landing gear performing combat maneuvers. Then, I'm sure I'll be briefed, wait, most likely acquire more gear, then wait some more for a ride to Camp Salerno. Take care.

Me, Dr. B, Dr. M, and Dr. W

Manas at night: that's pretty much it!

T, J and Dr. S enjoying a Baltika #9

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