KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Being a medic entrusted with taking care of ill and injured soldiers has the potential for long and tiring days. In the case of U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Weber, who is still dealing with the aftermath of being injured in an insurgent attack two months ago, it represents yet another challenge to balance alongside his professional duties.
Weber, a health care specialist with the medical platoon, headquarters and headquarters battery, 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, and a native of Ames, Iowa, was injured during an indirect fire attack at Forward Operating Base Salerno on April 22. The attack claimed the life of U.S. Army Capt. Joshua McClimans.
Having been on hundreds of combat patrols without incident on his previous Afghanistan deployment in 2008-2009 with the 1st Bn., 6th FA Regt., the attack was a sobering reality check.
“It definitely lets you know there are no guarantees of being safe just because you sit on a large FOB like Salerno,” said Weber.
Weber was living in a tent near the hospital at the time. Half the tent was destroyed, and Weber suffered a concussion. The explosion initially stunned him but he was able to put on his battle gear, responding as if he had been on auto-pilot, he said.
“I was just standing there,” said Weber, until fellow soldiers responded to the scene to help deal with the wounded.
Weber was treated at the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury center at FOB Salerno, then ordered to take it easy for a couple weeks. Many of his immediate post-incident troubles were attributable to severe, prolonged headaches that finally broke a couple weeks ago. Now such headaches are only random, thankfully.
“The typical soldier is back to work in 72 hours after a concussion,” said U.S. Army Maj. Thomas Hair, the battalion surgeon of the 201st Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, and a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, who works in the same office as Weber.
“This (Salerno) is one of the best places to be if you do suffer a head injury,” he added, referring to the professionally staffed and equipped MTBI center.
After a couple weeks to decompress from the attack and concussion, Weber gradually resumed his duties. They include helping compile battalion readiness medical statistics, sick call reports, and reporting up to brigade medical operations on any diseases or non-battle injuries. He is also the medical platoon leader, field medical assistant, and the treatment and supply NCO.
Weber’s efforts are certainly appreciated by those who work alongside him.
“He takes care of everything so I can do my job,” said U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Larson, physician’s assistant for the 1st Bn., 6th FA Regt., 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div., TF Duke, and a native of Grand Rapids, Minn.
Hair agrees, citing the mentoring aspect of Weber that positively impacts those working in Weber’s proximity.
“He has some strong junior leaders who help him out a lot, who wouldn’t be as strong without his leadership,” said Hair.
As for his long-term future, Weber doesn’t see himself making the Army a career after his enlistment expires next March. The chance to continue helping others, however, will see him remaining in the health care field. He is thinking about pursuing a masters degree in occupational therapy at the University of Minnesota.
The opportunity to study in the Midwest will also allow him to reconnect with some special people who have long been in his corner, especially on deployments that have been half a world away.
“I always had everything I needed because my family has really supported me,” said Weber.