It’s one of the most dangerous missions on the modern battlefield — and one of the most important. Crews flying big, vulnerable and sometimes unarmed helicopters brave gunfire, bad weather and rugged terrain to snatch wounded troops from a firefight or the scene of a bomb blast.
Archived posts from category ‘Medical’
From A to B: A Graf a Day
A paragraph or two a day from my forthcoming book FROM A TO B: HOW LOGISTICS FUELS AMERICAN POWER AND PROSPERITY.
The fighting was furious — and entirely one-sided. While on patrol in eastern Afghanistan Paktia province in December 2002, paratroopers from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division had taken a wrong turn and blundered straight into one of Paktia’s isolated villages. The villagers weren’t Taliban or even Taliban sympathizers. But they were heavily armed — and determined to keep the Americans out.
Every day for a week in early September, U.S. Army soldiers traveled the same 10-mile route between Kinshasa’s dilapidated Grand Hotel and the hilltop Congolese military training base overlooking the Democratic Republic of Congo capital. The Americans probably didn’t realize it, but the wide, smooth, freshly-paved avenue they used, so incongruous in a city of potholed and unpaved roads, had recently been constructed by a growing rival — China.
KINSHASA, Congo — The local residents had been waiting for hours, and there was no guarantee they’d get in to the poorly lit room where administrators from the Forces Armées de la République Democratique du Congo (FARDC) were busy filling out paperwork. The U.S. Army and the FARDC were trying to register the Congolese civilians for a free health clinic that would take place the following week. The clinic, administered by military medical personnel from both countries, would be one of the culminating events of a two-week, U.S.-led exercise meant to improve the FARDC’s medical capabilities — all part of the “soft power” strategy advanced by U.S. Africa Command, based in Germany.
Axe in Congo: Giving it Away
U.S. Army and Congolese army doctors render free medical care at a clinic in Kinshasa, as part of the Medflag ’10 exercise.
Axe in Congo: Litter Training
Kinshasa — Corrupt and impoverished, Congo doesn’t have much in the way of emergency services. Wrecked cars become semi-permanent urban art installations on the side of the road. When fires break out, it can take hours for anyone to respond. MONUSCO, the U.N. peacekeeping force, has been forced to put out some fires for the Congolese.
Axe in Congo: Can’t Please Everyone
Kinshasa — A two-day free health clinic is one of the culminating events of the U.S. Army-led “Medflag ’10″ training exercise in the Democratic Republic of Congo. While American instructors trained up Congolese medics, U.S. and Congolese officials oversaw registration of civilians to attend the clinic. The civilians lined up before a board of Congolese officers and described their condition and the treatment they hoped to receive. If they were lucky, their names were added to the list.
Kinshasa — Soft power can be tedious, exhausting, frustrating. A hundred U.S. Army doctors and medics are in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, to train several hundred medics from the Congolese Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo. The Americans’ idea: to leave the Congolese more capable and more professional than how they found it, hopefully contributing to slowly increasing stability in this troubled Central African country. But even these modest goals are easier said than done. For starters, there are huge language and technological barriers, as depicted in my video report above.
In recent years, the Navy has started dispatching dozens of hospital ships — some as big as shopping malls — to aid developing nations. The crews consist of doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, volunteers, and even acupuncturists, all there to help. But as Mental Floss reporter David Axe learned while visiting the Kearsarge ship in Nicaragua, the Nashville in Gabon and the Comfort in Panama, these missions aren’t about altruism; they’re about winning friends and influencing nations.
The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy will use techniques and technology developed for amphibious operations to boost her ability to see patients in remote, under-developed Pacific countries. On May 1, Mercy embarked on a five-month cruise, delivering free medical care to communities in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, East Timor, Palau and Papua New Guinea.
It was a rare refuge in a country that had known only war for 19 years: In Afgooye, a town just a few miles outside Mogadishu, the staff of the Dr. Hawa Abdi camp offered food, medical care and protection to as many as 6,000 Somali families at a time. Through two decades of war and occupation, the staff and its charismatic director carefully maintained their neutrality — and managed to preserve the camp’s delicate infrastructure despite the chaos that raged just beyond the walls.