Saturday, June 16, 2007

Al Taqaddum

Standing on the rooftop of the old Iraqi Air Force control tower my eyes scan the horizon stretched out before me to where the desert meets the sky of this barren lunar landscape. The hot wind and temps even at 8:30pm make me sweat even with my cammie top off and standing in a t-shirt, I bite down on the cigar I have been smoking for the last 20 min as the hot wind flows over me. I gaze out over the runway before me lighting up as the sun sinks slowly in the horizon giving this place a surreal quality as the hum of generators and turning CH-46's fill my ears. It's becoming night and the helos are turning their exterior lights on and they begin to flash. Off to my left I hear the familiar slapping sound of rotors turning on some Cobra's, they will take flight under the cover of darkness... we own the night. As I stand viewing all the sites around me I soak it all in. I feel good after over a month now on the ground I am comfortable, strong, proud and confident. As a Marine this is where I want and need to be.

I have spent the week at this former Iraqi Air Force base now a major hub for the Al Anbar area of operations. I have spent five days with four different squadrons and some tenant activities aboard this logistical Juggernaut of a base. I can not help but think of the things I have seen and heard this week, some that caused me to step back and now on the rooftop reflect a little.

I have attached two pictures to this posting one is of a CH-46 casualty evacuation helo, this is the war time ambulance in the sky, you get shot or hit an IED and there is a good chance the Marines of HMM-161 the "Greyhawks" could be the difference between living and dieing. I spoke at length with a young combat corpsman who in civilian terms would be a paramedic in the squadron who told me horrific stories. Tales of evacuating Marines and Soldiers and having to make decisions of who has the best chance of surviving and making the decision to move on leaving a Marine or Solider to god and working on those with the best chance for survival. This young man was maybe 24 years old. He is here making decisions on life and death....daily

I also had a gut check of my own when I made a visit to the Personnel Recovery Unit, this is where the Marines prepare the dead to be flown home one last time. I was met a LtCol who was the commander of this unit. We spoke at length and although the words said one thing as I gazed into the face and eyes they told another story, I saw the sadness and fatigue I can only imagine comes with such a difficult job. But when I asked how the Marines cope with this difficult task I was told " We are helping a Marine or Solider who can not help themselves get home" I swallowed hard when hearing that. I just nodded my head no words were worthy of a response.

I also had a good day with the Marines of HMM-262 the "Flying Tigers" an Okinawa Japan based squadron on their first combat deployment since Vietnam. Interesting story, they have formed an association with former Flying Tiger Marines who made the last combat deployment to Vietnam, and the old vets keep in constant contact with the squadron. They even had a coin made that on one side shows the squadron logo while on the flip side it states " RVN (Republic of Vietnam) to Iraq, we got your back". I was told by the Executive Officer that air crew members have taken to making a cut on their squadron patches and slide the coin in behind the patch and fly their mission with the coin in place....Marines taking care of Marines even now some 40 years later.

The second picture is my view on the roof, so now I gaze at my watch it's 9:00pm time for me to get moving so I can catch my helo back to Fallujah. I take another draw off my cigar and put my cammie top back on. I take a final look out at the darkening sky then close my eyes and just listen for a moment... remember this... I grab my pack and strap my pistol back on... time to move.


Anonymous said...

I can understand that in the triage situation there are some for who the damage is so much that there is no hope of saving them.

But my question part of me wonders if the are enough personnel on the scene to care for the wounded or are some left to the perils of chance just because of available personnel overload.

I would hope there are enough helping hands to give all those who can have a chance a fair shot at it.

Even if you have to deal with one qualified person covering the action of 5 or 6 others.

I hope you understand my point here.

Anonymous said...

This isn't an idle question for me.

In Nam after a firefight I was pulled out with a buds of mine who died as they where shoving him through the door to the chopper and 2 medics were working another friend who had a pass through wound in the right arm and left leg.

They triaged me out since I had two gut shots (one which missed the spine by an inch) and another to just inside my left shoulder.

Basically I am trying to say you can't have to many medics on a rescue flight and if there are more than enough, you can put them to good use for those cases where more than one set of hands is needed.

Agreed no matter how many medics you have there are some for who there is no hope but at least you could take the time to medicate them to ease their path.

I just worry that there are some who don't need to cross that threshold because some bean counter back stateside chose a manning level ratio that leads to some bad outcomes.

I know some trigger guys who would jump at the chance of being trained to help their buds have the best shot after being shot, and I hope it's not a situation where bad outcomes are simply due to lack of resources.

Johnny Smoke said...

Keep the pix coming. The one inside the CH46 was interesting. My dad was a medic for the USAF and flew in C130s from the mid-70s through mid-90s. He spent some time in the first Gulf war. You can't appreciate enough what these people go through.

Diane Allen said...

Hi there,
Just wanted to check in on you and say Hello. You are not far from our thoughts. God Bless you and thank for the pictures and the information you are sending to keep us informed here. Our prayers are with you. Keep safe.

The Allens

rbca314 said...

Thanks for your story. I received an e-mail from my son today and he is at Taqaddum. He is in the Navy and will be there for a few months. I was doing a search and happened upon your blog. I am trying to learn more the location where he is serving. Thanks for helping me. God bless you and all our troops.

Anonymous said...

Our thoughts and prayers are with you always. Glad that you enjoyed the care package. Be careful.

The Verbetens

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your service & this interesting info. My 21 yr old son, a Marine MP, is about to be deployed to Al Taqaddum so I am interested in any info & photos and an idea of the facilities. God Bless you all Stay safe, Mrs V.

Amy said...

I have so many questions about the area that TQ is in, because my fiancee is going there later this year. He is detached with the Navy and will be driving an ambulance for them. Can anyone tell me what I can expect on this end, while he is over there and what he will be dealing with?

Anonymous said...

Dmendez says....
My brother left for iraq about a week ago. I would like someinformation as to how there live there and to what point is it safe. Its the first time we had to deal with situation like this is its kind of hard for my family, we would appreciate it if anyone could tell us there life style at the base..... God bless my brother and all of the troops.

Julie said...

My son Lance Corporal Tanner Gates arrived in Al Taqaddum the last week of Aug. 07. I have heard he is frequently on night watch and went on his first convoy last weekend. He has said that the grub is good and his barrack is air conditioned! He has left here back in the states a beautiful pregnant wife, a very concerned mom and dad, a brother and a sister (who worships the ground he walks on). He is incredibly loved and missed.
Thank you for being there to encourage, and help to protect our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. I thank God for the brotherhood that you all share.

Anonymous said...

My baby daughter, who is 23 years old, leaves for al-Taqaddum September 11th, 2008 for a six month tour. She just got home from the Middle East this last May.. and gone again so soon. Her mother and I will be praying the whole time and yearning to have her home. She is in the U.S. Air Force. Does anyone have an "opinion" and/or "experience" about this military base? If so.. would you mind emailing me and letting me know about your impression of this place? -- -- Thank You..

Anonymous said...

My 23 year old daughter left for TQ today. Like many blogs that I have read this is new for me too. I guess that is why us as family members seek informaion from those family members that have experienced this with their loved ones. I am proud of my daughter and all those sons and daughters that serve for us. If anyone has information on TQ, photos, information on what it is like out there, etc.. please share.

Thank you, Mom