SHINDAND AIR BASE, Afghanistan
(8/19/2011) - When the Army goes on missions
outside the wire, they are susceptible to any number of threats,
ranging from extreme weather conditions and rocks being thrown at
them to small-arms fire and roadside bombs. Having well trained
medical professionals attached to Army units ensures a quick
response in the event a soldier is wounded and in need of emergency
For two Air Force medical services
technicians deployed to Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan, their
mission is to travel outside the wire and provide that crucial
medical care to approximately 400 soldiers assigned to the 298th
Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
Staff Sgts. Ryan
Hartman and Carlos Meza, Air Force medics, are Joint Expeditionary
Tasked, or JET, airmen attached to the 298th CSSB, and are both
serving the first deployment of their career. According to their
medic team lead, Army Sgt. 1st Class Wes Blanscet, these airmen are
tasked with providing medical support for convoy missions throughout
Both of these NCOs bring a wealth of
experience to this deployment. Hartman, deployed from the 81st
Medical Operations Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., has
spent five years in the medical field, serving the last three as an
emergency services technician. Meza, deployed from the 377th MDOS at
Kirtland AFB, N.M., has nearly four years of medical experience and
has completed the paramedic program with Air Force pararescuemen.
"Our training has prepared us to work under stressful situations
with a sense of urgency and competency," said Meza, a native of Big
Pine, Calif. "Mass casualties, urgent medevac and patient care under
fire are some scenarios we've been trained to deal with."
Just because they're now deployed doesn't mean their training is
complete. Being assigned to a team with three other medics from the
Army, and having a seasoned paramedic team leader in Blanscet, has
broadened their medical knowledge as well as provided them
opportunities for additional hands-on training to hone their skills
According to Hartman, their Army team lead has
trained them for unique situations they could face while outside the
wire, including searching their 40-pound equipment bag for an item
in darkness, administering IVs wearing night-vision goggles and
performing buddy carries, all while wearing their full combat gear.
"We've gone through some great training prior to this
deployment, but now that we're out here where it counts, we have to
keep training," said Hartman, a native of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
"We are out on the road at all hours of the day, so we have to
prepare for a wide range of scenarios. We're always training so
those important techniques stay fresh in our minds and we can just
react when called upon."
All the training and experience
they've built up in their Air Force careers crosses their minds
every time they're out on a mission and the convoy encounters an
"We've had instances where roadblocks
have been set up for our convoys, bottles of flammable substances
have been thrown at our fuel tankers and roadside bombs have been
identified boxing our convoys in," Meza said. "While that's
happening, you're in the back of the vehicle, your adrenaline starts
to pump, and you're running through different scenarios and prepping
for what items you might need if the situation goes bad."
Being the only two airmen deployed with more than 400 soldiers, the
medics, having never worked with the Army before, weren't sure what
to expect or how the soldiers would interact with them. They quickly
realized they were part of the 298th CSSB family.
here from the moment we arrived was really welcoming," Hartman said.
"It's like we've known them for years. We might not be in the same
service, but we're on the same team. We all want to reach the same
Battalion leadership has observed how these two
airmen have meshed with the battalion's soldiers and is impressed
how Hartman and Meza have carried themselves during the first few
months of their deployment so far.
"These professional and
knowledgeable airmen play an important part in the Army's mission
here at Shindand," said Army Capt. Emanuel Barber, 298th CSSB S-3,
which oversees logistics, training and anti-terrorism. "Not only do
they provide medical support to the soldiers here, but they also
support convoys delivering critical materials to bases throughout
RC-West. They're a valuable asset."
After a long mission,
these airmen are sweaty, tired, and most nights, just want to get
online to talk to their loved ones back home in the U.S. They're
missing birthdays, anniversaries and the comforts of home, but they
know what they're doing here is making a difference.
responsibility of taking care of your fellow soldiers is a very
rewarding and humbling one," Meza said. "There is a great deal of
pride knowing that you are the person that they are going to call
upon when they're having the worst day of their lives and you're
going to be there to help. Not only are these soldiers our American
heroes, but they are brothers, sisters, fathers and cousins that I
can help send back home to their loved ones. There isn't a greater
feeling out there."
By USAF Senior Airman Patrick McKenna
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