Saturday, January 26, 2008

Clearing the Way

I recently went to training on how to conduct route clearance operations. As you can imagine by the title, it involves clearing IEDs from the routes used by coalition forces. Without getting into the details - you drive around looking for IEDs so they don't get other vehicles. It's interesting to say the least. After completing my training, I've been participating in the clearance operations. I've included some pictures of a few of the vehicles used, as well as pictures from around Baghdad. Many of the operations are at night so I don't have pictures, although I did throw one in of me getting ready to go out at night. I wish I could talk more about it, but this is something we really don't want the bad guys to know very much about.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Combat Lifesaver Course

Yesterday I was certified as a Combat Lifesaver (CLS) after finishing the Army's CLS course. This course covered areas such as performing tactical combat casualty care, opening and managing an airway, treating penetrating chest trauma and decompressing a tension pneumothorax, initiating a saline lock and intravenous infusion, and requesting medical evacuation. There are several other areas also covered, but this gives you a general idea of what we learned. The purpose of the course is to provide a bridge between the basic first aid taught to everyone in the military and the medical training a combat medic receives. The combat lifesaver is a non medical soldier or in my case an Airman, who provides lifesaving measures as a secondary mission as the primary mission allows. Normally there's one combat lifesaver per squad or team. Because a medic may take several minutes to reach a casualty, the CLS can provide immediate care that can save a persons life, such as stopping severe bleeding, administering intravenous fluids to control shock, and performing needle chest decompression for a casualty with tension pneumothorax.

The first part of the course was classroom learning and hands on applications with airway control, needle chest decompression, and administering IVs. I was given a nasopharyngeal airway and also gave one to another student. The best way I can describe this is to imagine a plastic hose the size of your pinkie finger being shoved up your nose and coming out the back of your throat. I learned it hurts very much and that I have some sort of nasal blockage that keeps the tube from going all the way through. I learned this after much pushing and twisting failed to force the tube in my nose and resulted in a bloody nose. I had better luck administering the tube to my "patient" and managed to get it in with only mild discomfort to him. Of course we can't do needle decompressions on each other so we used a medical training aid for that. We did have the opportunity to practice IV's on each other. That was an interesting training session. Lots of blood and three people who fell out - one of which completely passed out for a good amount of time. I've attached some pictures of the IV training - if you don't like the sight of blood you should avoid those pictures. The culmination of the course was field application of the skills we were taught. We put on all our combat gear and attended to "wounded" soldiers. The instructors did a great job of creating realistic wounds and battle field conditions for us to practice with. We had the opportunity to administer IVs again - and of course get them administered to us if we were "casualties". I was lucky enough to play a casualty as well as a CLS. I meant to get pictures of the field exercise but forgot my camera that day.

Here are the pictures I did get.

The first three show my IV setup and me giving the IV. The last shot is of me getting mine.

Friday, January 11, 2008

At Least It Wasn't Rockets Falling From The Sky

About midnight last night I heard what I thought were far off explosions. It took me a few minutes to realize what I was hearing was thunder. A few hours later I awoke to the sound of rain hitting the trailer. It's rained a few times here, but on those occasions by morning it was hard to tell anything happened. When I got up this morning I expected to walk outside and see a few puddles and not much else as a result of the rain. When I opened my door it took me a few seconds to register what I was seeing. There was snow falling. It wasn't sticking to the ground, but it was coming down at a decent rate for a little bit. I'm not sure what the history of snow in Baghdad is, but according to this article, it doesn't happen very often. I can't say I was glad to be here to see this rare occurrence, but it was interesting.;_ylt=AqufIdpI0razJHGZD.akCz3q188F

So here's the downside to all this. What do you get when you mix lots of rain and wet snow with dirt, dirt, and more dirt? Yes....mud. Lots and lots of mud. Today it was about 2 inches deep anywhere off the pavement. Sorry, I don't have any pictures because I forgot my camera while I was out and about. Unfortunately, I think I'll have plenty of opportunities to get some shots of the mud. I'm sure about July when it's 120, I'll look back fondly on this cold wet weather - until then, it sucks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Mop In One Hand And A Gun In The Other

I've come to accept that I'm not a good blogger. I had great expectations of writing a few times a week updating everyone on all the great and exciting things being done around Baghdad. Don't get me wrong - great and exciting things do happen here each and every day, I'm just not directly involved in much of that kind of stuff. That leaves the mundane and boring things for me to write about. I'm not sure how much of that you may be interested in. I realize my perspective has changed on what's exciting and what's not - many of you may think flying around Iraq visiting different camps, ducking small arms fire, and avoiding the now very infrequent rockets sounds exciting - and in some respects it is - but the reality is this.... travelling makes up about 10% or less of what I do here (and the other stuff is a minuscule amount, thank God) - and I'm one of the few in my organization that really goes off camp at all. My life here, condensed into a few posts on a blog, does not capture what it's really like. Most of the time it's sitting around doing routine work over and over and over. There's nothing wrong with that - it's much better than the constant threat of enemy action - it's just that at the end of the day there's no where to go and nothing to do but more of the same routine work. There just isn't much new to write about (considering most everything is either classified or restricted from being written about). That leaves me without much to write about except my opinion on what's happening generically around Iraq - unless you want to read about the highly armed Sunday cleaning detail and how I've perfected mopping the conference room while wearing a gun. So, baring any great and adventurous stories of my skill with the mop, I'll probably start writing more about my opinions and ideas on what's happening here.
I realize part of my problem is boredom has set in. I think even the guys going out on patrols every day get bored. A persons level of what's normal is based on what they do and see every day, so normal has been reset to a different level for people here - and certainly it's different even within different groups here. As an example, the large explosions occuring several times a week outside the perimeter wall are only momentarily startling and are mostly just routine now - although the people out there close to them would have a different opinion. It's all a matter of experience and perspective.
I'm sure I'll have many new experiences and adventures to share over the next 8+ months I have left (hopefully none involving being shot at, rocketed, mortared, bombed, etc.) and I promise to share those - but between any of that, I'll still try and write more, just don't expect it to be very exciting. That's about it for today.... Now where did I leave that mop?