Peter van Agtmael

American Wars: 9-Line

A medic in a helicopter evacuation unit of the 4th Infantry Division (medevacs) rests in his hooch between missions.  His girlfriend in Texas sent the teddy bear to him, and he had another one hanging in the chopper next to his seat. The medevac mission demands long hours of monotony, waiting in small huts next to the helicopters.  When the call comes in on the ‘9-line’ that there are casualties in their sector, the crew scrambles to the ‘bird,’ usually getting into the air within 10 minutes.  They hurtle to the site of the injury, landing just long enough to take the casualty onboard before flying off to the nearest Combat Support Hospital or Forward Surgical Team.
A U.S. Blackhawk helicopter comes lands at Aranas, a small American outpost in Nuristan province that’s considered to be the most remote in Afghanistan.  Established by the 10th Mountain Division in 2006, it clings to the side of a mountain overlooking a primitive town.  With no roads larger than a donkey trail leading to the area, all medevacs, re-supply and transport must be done by helicopter.  Often, the helicopters are ancient Russian models affectionately called 'Jingle Air,' which are subcontracted by the U.S. military because of a shortage of helicopter assets in the region.
Baird drifted out of consciousness for most of the flight, finally awaking about fifteen minutes from the base.  His groggy and placid featured quickly turned to panic as he realized he was unable to move his fingers.  While Julio stroked his face and reassured him above the din of the fast-moving helicopter, Baird continued to look at his unmoving hand, until finally his fingers stirred slightly.  At the movement he dropped his head, exhausted, but with a look of enormous relief.  He went into emergency surgery, and a surgical team managed to save his arm from amputation.
SGT Jimmy McReynolds, a medic with the 10th Combat Support Hospital on his second tour to Iraq, carries a horribly burned U.S. soldier to the gator, a golf cart sized vehicle for carrying casualties from the helicopter landing zone to the hospital entrance.  The soldier was burned over 90% of his body when a roadside bomb hit his armored vehicle, igniting the fuel tank and burning to death two of his comrades.  Dangling from either side of his stretcher was his camouflage uniform, ripped open by the medics on the helicopter.  He lay there, thin and exposed in playfully patterned boxers, skin peeling away in clumps, deep red welts where the burns were deepest.  He was drifting in and out of unconsciousness, his eyes sometimes stabbing open for a few seconds.  He woke up again in agony when he was transferred from the stretcher to the ER bed, screaming ‘daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy’ then ‘put me to sleep, please put me to sleep.’
Jason Thompson waits to have his wounds cleaned after his humvee was hit by an IED in Baghdad.  He was returned to duty within a few days.  Another soldier injured in the explosion was filled with bitterness.  After having his light injuries treated, he joined the rest of the crew outside to smoke a cigarette.  He told them that he was supposed to have been on leave in the U.S. that week, but that it had been cancelled.  Earlier in the deployment, his father had died in a plane crash, and he flew home from Iraq for the funeral.  When he requested his normal leave, the army refused the request because he'd already been home when his father died.
A gravely wounded Iraqi soldier grimaces during treatment.  He was running a fever of 105.0 degrees after being transferred to Baghdad from an overfilled American medical facility in Balad, Iraq.  Dark humor is written on his bandages.  Underneath descriptions of treatment and injuries (22 July chest tube, 0930 burns) someone has written 'Ouchie,' and drawn a frowning face : (.  The transfer was carelessly performed, and nearly a dozen severely wounded soldiers came in at once, with only a few minutes warning.  One man, a double amputee, had a fever of over a 106.0 degrees.  He was waving his arms at hidden threats and weakly yelling 'allah, allah, allah' while his festering stumps had their dressings changed.
Joshua Jump of Laramie, Wyoming, shortly after being wounded by an Improvised Explosive Device in Baghdad.  Shrapnel tore through his face, chest, and leg, but he was quickly stabilized by medical staff.  He was sent back to the U.S., where it was expected he would make a full recovery.