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Ups and downs

Holiday season brings Santa, lifesaving effort in Afghanistan

January 29, 2011
By AIR FORCE CAPT. RYAN WELD

Our second full month, December, here in Afghanistan was a month full of ups and downs but, through both, we worked as a team to make our way through.

The holiday season is probably the most difficult time of a deployment for most service members. It's difficult to be away from your family and friends, thinking of all the get-togethers we are missing back at home, especially those who have children and miss seeing them on Christmas morning finding all the things that Santa brought them. Fortunately, this is also the time when units come together the most and really make an effort to make everyone feel that even though their family is over 9,000 miles away, they have another family here that cares about them just as much.

Our 90-man team really pulled together and made Christmas day special. We had a special all-day Christmas meal with just about everything we would find at home, even ice cream, which is a pretty rare treat out here.

We also had a showing of the movie "A Christmas Story"and enjoyed watching Ralphie nearly shoot his eye out for the 500th time.

I dressed as Santa and handed out candy to everyone, something that really confused the local Afghans who work in our cafeteria.

On New Year's Eve, we held a huge bonfire on base and invited the local Afghan government officials to celebrate with us. The languages spoken by the different nationalities represented at the celebration made for a confusing evening at times, but we all had a great night, capped off by the Romanian Army battalion stationed nearby firing off artillery flare rounds at midnight.

December was not entirely a difficult month, as several members of our team, myself included, were involved in a life-saving mission that gave us a real sense of purpose and feeling that we are making an impact.

During the second week of December, an Afghan bus full of civilians crashed and flipped on the highway that runs through our province, severely injuring eight people.

The plan had been to treat the eight at the local Afghan hospital, but it soon became apparent their injuries were life-threatening and that if they were to survive, they would need to be airlifted to Kandahar Air Base.

With most of our team out that day on a mission, eight of us went to the helipad to wait for the ambulance bringing the causalities to our base. We were surprised when, instead of an ambulance, an Afghan police truck pulled up with the casualties lying in the back. We quickly realized a plan was needed to safely transfer the patients into the Blackhawk helicopter upon its arrival. As a combat lifesaver-qualified member of our team, I realized the severity of the situation, and we began to build a makeshift triage center for the incoming patients.

Many were unconscious or suffered injuries so severe that moving them took great care and patience. We were able to secure the eight for safe transport to Kandahar, and all survived.

Afterwards, our medical staff and commander congratulated all of us on our efforts, saying our quick thinking led to the patients' successful evacuation. It is times like this that make me realize why I volunteered to come here and be a part of efforts to help provide people here with the opportunity for a brighter future.

Snow has begun to cover the tops of the mountains that surround our base, giving the area a break from its usual brown coloring. I hope everyone at home had a wonderful holiday season and is enjoying the new year.

If you ever have any questions about my deployment, please e-mail me at rwilliamweld@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you.

(Weld, a 1998 Brooke High School graduate and 2003 Fairmont State College graduate, is a U.S. Air Force captain serving in Afghanistan as a member of Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul. For information about the reconstruction team, visit them on Facebook by searching Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul.

The thoughts expressed in this column are Weld's opinions and don't represent official policy of ISAF or the Department of Defense.)

 
 

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