(editors note: sorry, missed this one, and so is out of order)
Ok another letter!!
So how are all of you? I’m doing OK I guess. Kinda homesick this week. (Of course the sound of the tanks booming reminds me of Ft Hood.) I know I’ve only been here a month or so, but the knowledge that I really don’t KNOW how long I’m going to be here is really wearing me down. I can only imagine what it is like for the others here – expecting to go home in November, then told, no it’s going to be sometime like March or April. Then word is coming down that ALL deployments are going to be a year long. And the word is that we will be protected from future deployments for only 3 months, not the usual 6. Which basically means that you can be deployed for 12 mos, home for 3, deployed for 12. Not very appealing for most people with families. It becomes especially hard for those female soliders with children. Yes, I know it’s hard on the men too, but face it, it’s the women who still do the majority of the child rearing in this country.
Women join the army for lots of reasons, but there is a very high percentage of single moms and I don’t think that being home with your child 6 mos out of every 2.5 years is adequate. For either parent. The army is going to lose a lot of fine soldiers with this policy. Which begs the question – should women with children, esp. single mothers, be allowed to join the army?
Hell, yes!!!! BUT! There should be adequate counseling as to the implications of being in the army and a clear understanding of what could be expected. So many soldiers (both men and women) just don’t understand the possible disruptions to family life. Every one wants to have a hand in watching their child grow up and become productive adults. That just isn’t possible if you are in the country for 3 months between every 12.
So – what will happen? We either beef up the army enough to support the nation's designs on its usage and allow for an adequate quality of life, or initiate the draft. Which means a short term, young solider. With less training. Our military is so much more technical now that a 2-year stint will only get a young person comfortable. Not expert. Which means a change in tactics. We end up with cannon fodder. Spear-carriers. Red shirts. (ya know – old star trek thing – if you see an unknown character in a red shirt – he’s going to get killed by the alien of the week early in the show.)
**DAMN – there’s a sand fly in here!!! He got me! Little bugger. &*&^%$^%#!!!**
ANYWHO, that’s my soapbox for the week.
This letter got interrupted. Several times – it’s been a wild week. Ya know how I told you we were firing our artillery into the night to discourage the idiots firing mortars at us? What they do is figure out the place the rounds are fired from by were the impact is and that becomes the target. Should work as there are only a few places on our perimeter close enough to our inners to make mortar fire effective (of course, one of the major places is within touching distance of the CSH. Good planning all around, huh.).
The other night the tanks were firing out when suddenly, BAWUMP!!!
The mortar landed less than 100 feet from the hospital (50 feet from our new flushable toilets – what a tragedy THAT would have been!!!). We all felt the pressure wave. Our chaplain swears (can I say that when referring to a chaplain?) he heard it go over his tent. He’s probably right. The round landed just outside our berm in the engineering co area just behind us. Luckily, the only thing it did was put some holes in a nearby tent. Two soldiers had just left the tent. No casualties. But it really made us sit up and notice. I must admit we have gotten kinda lazafaire about the whole thing. I mean, the rounds come in, and by the time we get our stuff on and go for the milvan – the attack is over. Usually.
The command of this area got excited when the grid-square coordinates of the impact site were communicated over the net – it was the coordinates of the 21st CSH!!! Eeeek! DID THE HOSPITAL GET HIT???!!!!
It is a good demonstration of the difference between direct (aimed at known enemy position) and indirect (just lob it over there and see if it hits something) fires.
Now if only we can impress on our people the difference between cover (in someplace that will provide some protection from fires) and concealment (standing upright in the hospital tents where you cant be seen but provides NO protection) WITHOUT a direct demonstration!!
Anyway, the jokers started to lob those damn mortars at us during the day too! We oughta put a MRLS on the exterior berm – they can target any launch site within 3 seconds – and return fire – make it very costly to launch one at us. And if the launch site is on the top of someone’s house in the middle of town – oh, well..!
ANYWAY, the next night we heard a mortar round go off – outside the fence – seemed like the area of impact was the same as the area of launch – oops. Couple of less Iraqis launching rounds at us.
The next night began with a big explosion, then lots of flairs and small arms fire (all outside our perimeter) and ended with a couple of our tanks firing out from only about a city block away from us….
Of course we didn’t know who those last booms were coming from – we were notified just AFTER that it was friendly fire. Woke up the whole camp and everyone DOVE for cover. 4 am wake-up call. People didn’t believe it when we told them it was friendly fire.
So hopefully that was the SPs cleaning out a weapons cache.
Two of our crew decided they wanted a better view of the activity and climbed on top of one of the hospital milvans so they could see better. When I saw this I simply asked – “is this wise?” they told me they weren’t afraid of heights. I mentioned my concerns were more along the lines of EXPOSURE than height. The next question they asked – do you want us to get down, Ma’am?
They got down. I mean think about it – firefight. Small arms fire. Booms. Just over there. And climbing on top of something so you can SEE better??!!
What was that discussion I just had about cover?
So, the moon is now full and we haven’t been woken up in the middle of the night for the last couple of nights. Maybe we did get em…
We got a kid (soldier) in our EMT the other day – got hurt in a mortar attack in Baghdad. Tried to bleed to death out there before his crew got him into us. We gave him lots of units of PRBC (packed red blood cells) and ffp but he kept oozing and bleeding, and dropping his crit. When we ran out of PRBC, we started giving him whole blood – donated from our docs, then our nurses, then his whole unit came in to donate whole blood for him. His unit camped on our doorstep during this time, waiting to see if he lived or died. The whole blood really helped – the platelets were more effective than that in PRBCs due to the age of the PRBCs. Anyway, after a couple more surgeries on his leg, and finding that one last bleeder, he suddenly turned the corner, and started to improve. A true miracle all around after over 35 units of whole blood, 20 units of PRBC, and 15 FFP.
Another reason it was a miracle – we weren’t that busy, so we could take the time. We used up out entire stock of O pos blood, and, once, again, we could do that because we were not busy, and had a ready source of whole blood – his unit. He left tonight on a direct special flight to Germany. Still on a vent, by no means out of the woods, but still alive. Wow. (UPDATE: to learn more about this soldier's story see this.)
Sand flies. Sand fleas. Little buggers. You can’t see them, you don’t feel them land, and you don’t even feel them bite. But, boy, do they leave welts! And unlike skiter bites, these keep itching and itching, and itching, and you end up with this weeping blister welt, which eventually heals. And they don't just bite once – they’ll bite you 3-4 times. And you don't know that they were even there till the next day.
One flew down my cleavage. OK, 'cleave'. My chest and neck are covered by welts. Another place I can't scratch in public.
Our sleeping arrangements have gotten better; they finally put up a tent for the permanent night staff. Of course it still needs to be sand bagged, but it has 2 big, powerful AC units and should stay cool even in 100+ heat. Much better than the PPU – a section of the hospital they used to provide for night workers to sleep in. It was a little tent section connected to the hospital, had some coolers in it. You crawled in and slept on the floor in any space you could find, and hope the person next to you didn’t have bad breath. Or gas. I had enough about the second time I rolled over and ended up face-to-face with someone (I flipped over and let him have my feet). Or someone else rolled over and I had an arm flung across me. Usually was comfortable until about 1100, then it got too hot. I used to go back to my tent and build a tent around the ac unit and sleep directly in front of it to try to keep cool. That worked until someone else in the tent had to sleep. Not much really works when it is 120 degrees out there.
Fortunately the temp is only in the 100’s this week.
With a permanent night worker tent, we have someplace to hang out on our off day, without having to worry about waking people up. Nice.
So we started to move into the sleep-tent – got my stuff in there but its still needs organizing. Unfortunately, there was a slight problem with the connection to the ac units – kept flipping the breaker. Then the tent would quickly start heating up. So much for sleep that day. They changed the breaker box which took care of the problem. Turns out it was one of the boxes outside the cp tent. They had gone through a few boxes which they found out were bad. But never marked them. Or separated them from the others. And so it goes.
Had to throw a LTC out of the womans’ night shift sleep tent the day we moved in. Turns out she was from a FST (Forward Surgical Team) team who came into our CSH to do a little work. Where the team’s been located there’s no real work for them to do – and it gets boring sitting around doing nothing. Someone showed her where the transitional personnel tent was, and she decided it was too hot in there and so she was going to sleep in this empty one someone erroneously indicated she could sleep in initially, not realizing it was to be our tent! We (the night crew) were slated to move in there the next AM. My LTC mentioned that she had warned the FST person she would have to move the next AM. When I got there in the morning and asked if she wanted help moving, she said, no, she was fine were she was.
I insisted she had to move and explained why (tent slated for night shift personnel permanent tent, 10 people to move in that day, people expecting to sleep days without interruption by day shift people moving around in the tent, expected to be able to move freely in tent on off nights with out worrying about bothering sleeping people, no room for her, etc.). She still indicated she wanted to stay. I continued to indicate she had to go…(hey, I was even polite! After all, she did outrank me) Well, in the end she very ungraciously moved. Even said to me that if she was going to be here any longer than three weeks she would NOT have moved. My reply of, “Oh, yes you would have!”, I admit, WAS muttered too quietly for her to hear…Of course I immediately reported this up MY chain of command. Who basically had the same reaction. I can’t tell you all the politics it took to get those night shift sleep tents established - believe me, NO ONE was going to muck it up.
So, I have, once again, pissed off someone who outranks me. Makes me feel like I was at home.
Well, that’s all for now. I’ll write again soon.