KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan (8/12/2012) – The June 1 attack on
Forward Operating Base Salerno is still fresh in the minds of the
service members who call the base home.
June 14, 2012 - (From left to right) U.S. Army Sgt. William
Blackmore III, U.S. Army Capt. Bethany Everett, U.S. Army Sgt.
Sandra Castle, and Sgt. Raffique Khan. Members of the 72nd
Veterinary Detachment who assisted in the evacuation of casualties
during the afternoon attack on Salerno by insurgents on June 1,
2012. Photo by Army
Capt. Addie Randolph
Around 12:30 p.m., when most members of the base are enjoying lunch
in the dining facility, insurgents detonated a vehicle-borne
improvised explosive device at the gate nearest to the DFAC. The
shock wave from the blast caused the roof of the DFAC to collapse on
Among the service members in the DFAC that day
were members of the 72nd Veterinary Detachment who usually eat lunch
together. All members sustained minor physical injuries from the
initial collapse of the DFAC, and concussions from the blast.
Despite their injuries, these soldiers took action to not only get
to safety but to ensure others got to safety as well.
72nd Veterinary Detachment members left the DFAC they were met with
small-arms fire by insurgents wearing suicide vests that had
breached the base perimeter shortly after the initial blast.
“I just reacted. It wasn't even any thought, the only thought
was that we're not dying today, you know, we're getting home to our
families,” said U.S. Army Capt. Bethany Everett, a native of
Atlanta, Ga., officer in charge of the 72nd Veterinary Detachment
team in Salerno.
As the members ran for cover, U.S. Army Sgt. Raffique
Khan, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., a food inspector with the
72nd Veterinary Detachment, identified a civilian contractor
under some rubble caused by the blast. With the assistance
of Everett, they immediately ran back to pull the contractor
out and assess his injuries, administering what first aid
After getting him to a safe location
behind a nearby connex, a vehicle came by picking up
causalities to take to the base hospital.
Everett took it upon themselves to go back into the DFAC and
clear the building looking for anyone else that may have
They heard another explosion and ran
back outside. Khan ran for a connex closer to the road to
pull more security when a soldier next to him got shot in
At the same time, Everett had positioned
herself a couple connexes behind Khan, where an injured
sergeant major was telling her the insurgents were wearing
U.S. military uniforms and that they were under a humvee
with a rocket-propelled grenade about 10-15 feet away from
Khan pulled the soldier with the
gunshot wound to his leg around the corner just as the
insurgent blew himself up under the humvee. The connex
protected them both from the blast. Everett assisted the
sergeant major and other soldier to a nearby gator which
took the wounded to the base hospital for further medical
“I don't think I did anything special,”
said Khan. “I just think that we were there for a reason
though, because there were no medical providers [at the
DFAC] for some reason. All the doctors, everybody, were at
the hospital. They didn't go to lunch that day.”
Unbeknownst to Khan, most of the hospital staff were
involved in a surgery that had been bumped by a trauma
patient that had arrived at the hospital earlier in the day.
Khan and Everett then split up. Everett was on the search for her
other soldiers and Khan assisted in clearing nearby buildings.
U.S. Army Sgt. William Blackmore III, a native of Tampa, Fla.,
had been separated from his team while assisting with basic care to
casualties until another medic showed up. Blackmore then provided
suppressive fire for a sniper until another soldier relieved him
because he didn't have on his personal protective equipment.
“I think everybody was right where they were supposed to be,” said
Blackmore. “I think that people reacted certain ways because that's
how they were meant to react. I can say that I'm proud of my team
and I'm proud of myself.”
On his way to get his protective
gear, Blackmore helped some foreign contractors out of a building
that was in the direct line of fire from the insurgents.
Medical personnel of the 94th Forward
Surgical Team at Forward Operating Base Salerno's combat support
hospital pose for a group photo. These medical personnel played a
key role in providing care to all those injured in the attack on
June 1, 2012. Photo by Army
Capt. Addie Randolph
After getting his gear, he helped the quick reaction
force team clear nearby buildings before heading back to the
hospital to gain accountability of the other members of his
“I was very surprised at how much people from
completely different units, completely different military
occupational specialists, can stick together and work
together to get something done,” said Blackmore. “It just
makes me realize how much of a team we are at the end of the
Also in the DFAC that day, was U.S. Army Lt.
Col. Geisele Miles, the 94th Combat Support Hospital
commander, a native of Pine Bluff, Ark. After the initial
blast, Miles and another soldier used individual movement
techniques using any available cover, to make their way back
to the combat support hospital.
Everyone in the
hospital heard and felt the initial blast as if it was right
outside. The hospital, like many buildings on base, has no
windows and all the doors were secured, so the personnel
inside didn't really have a picture of what was happening or
where the action was.
“All we could hear was the
radio calls that there were going to be casualties coming,”
said U.S. Army Maj. Kathleen Whitney, from Fort Worth,
Texas, chief nurse of the intensive care unit. “There was
firing outside, and there was people screaming.”
hospital issued a mass casualty code and began to prepare
for incoming casualties and the emergency room guards took
up defensive positions with their weapons pointed on the
“We really didn't know when they opened [the
doors] was it going to be casualties coming in or was it
going to be enemy trying to overrun the hospital, but it
ended up being casualties,” said Whitney.
support hospital soon started receiving patients from the
attack. Medical personnel snapped into action. Medical
assets from around the FOB came to the hospital to assist
with the overage of patients being brought in that day.
U.S. Army Sgt. Jason Peck, the noncommissioned officer
in charge of the concussion care center at Salerno, went to
the hospital from his clinic to assist in any way he could.
Peck helped triage patients at the troop medical
clinic before he was moved to the minimal care area. He
received patient history and evaluated patients using the
Military Acute Concussion Evaluation, or MACE exam,
identifying those patients who needed further medical care
and those who need to go to the concussion care center.
“They were great,” said Miles. “I don't know if it was
an adrenaline high or what, but they really stepped up to
the plate. There is only 24 of us here for the forward
support team, but we had other medical assets from the FOB
that came in stepped in and helped us. If I could give them
all a purple heart I would.”
“The brave medical
warriors exhibited all traits of true bravery, and truly
exhibited that the warrior ethos is all about. Their actions
were noble and heroic as they faced true adversity, and yet
stepped up to care for the wounded by providing world class
healthcare in all aspects. These brave men and women are a
true credit to themselves, Task Force Medical-Afghanistan,
and the United States Army,” said Col. Bruce McVeigh, TF
By Army Capt. Addie Randolph
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