Cultivating Afghanistan: ADT Medical Care

The Indiana National Guard Agribusiness Development Team, or ADT, has been lucky to suffer few serious injuries during its tenure in Afghanistan.

  • A photo of two soldiers riding in a military helicopter

    Image 1 of 4

    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    Blackhawk helicopters ferried the ADT across an IED-spiked landscape to the Sabari combat outpost. Here Major Ronald Crane and Issa, an Afghan interpreter, pensively watch the landscape below.

  • A photo of Khost Province from the air

    Image 2 of 4

    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    A view of Khost Province from the air

  • A photo of a military building in Sabari, Afghnistan.

    Image 3 of 4

    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    A military building in Sabari, Afghnistan.

  • A photo of a military guardpost in Sabari, Afghanistan

    Image 4 of 4

    Photo: Douglas Wissing

    A hastily-built guardpost sits at the edge of an allied encampment in Sabari, Afghanistan.

Several times each week the giant voice on Forward Operating Base Salerno, or the FOB, calls out codes for incoming casualties. And the 65-person medical team at the FOB’s Combat Support Hospital swings into action. Brigade Surgeon Captain Nicholas Allan said when casualties arrive, the triage is much like what happens in any hospuital.

“At the forward surgical hospital, if you will, or tent, is what some of them are,” Allan said, “[The wounded soldiers] are met by trauma surgeons, nurse anesthetists, medics, who completely assess the patient, find out exactly what the injuries are, determine if there needs to be surgery done at that time, or how they should stabilize the patient. And they will take care of basic life-saving procedures at that time.”

But the treatment of wounded soldiers already began out in the field, with medics like the Agribusiness Development Team’s Sgt. Phillip Jacks—the man the soldiers call Doc.

I’m trained like a paramedic, I can handle bullet wounds, “shrap” metal,” Jacks said. “I’m not a doctor, but I’m an emergency medic. I can see if they need to go right away or if we can hold off for a minute.”

The ADT not only has well-trained medics, but is exceptionally well equipped because it travels in heavily-armored vehicles called MRAPS.

“On our vehicles, we have a lot of things that normal units don’t have. We carry oxygen and things you normally can’t carry. But the MRAPs let me take a lot more,” Jacks said.

But Doc Jacks’s battleground treatment is only intended to stabilize wounded soldiers until they can be moved to a combat hospital.

“I’m more of a trauma person. Keep ‘em alive till they get to the doc. Which can be anywhere from two hours to sixteen hours, depending on whether we’ve got air assets or not.”

Medics like Jacks depend on medevac helicopter teams to evacuate the casualties—sometimes from dangerous locales.

“They get to us as quick as they can,” he said. “They take a lot of chances. They’re actually really good.”

Jacks and other medics depend on pilots like Wyoming National Guardsman Maj. Theron Ritzman. Though soldiers often describe medevac pilots as the cowboys of the airfield, flying in hot — or under fire — to get the wounded to care, Ritzman says his unit doesn’t deserve its reputation.

“We are Cowboy Dustoff, that is our nickname,” Ritzman said. “But we try not to perpetuate the myth of the cowboy dustoff. There have been, in the past, units that flew more aggressively than others. But a lot of the tac pilots don’t land outside of FOBs. So they are not used to seeing us land where we land. But that’s what we train for. It’s in a controlled manner. We just try to get there as quickly as possible and get off the ground as quick as we can.”

Even flying to the combat hospital, flight medics continue the trauma care—their complex interventions en route sometimes saving soldiers’ lives.

But the giant voice calling out the casualties is a reminder of war’s tragic harvest—and the random destiny soldiers face on a daily basis.


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