News: Aeromedical Evacuation: Coalition Forces, Kirkuk officials partner to care for bombing victims
Story by Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski
The bright pink soccer ball was clearly out of place on the flightline here Monday.
But it was in just the right place to begin the healing process for a 9-year-old girl atop a stretcher being carried on board a Turkish Air Force C-130 to be aeromedically evacuated to Ankara, Turkey. She was the first of the children and adults—11 litter patients in all--who were moved from ambulances up the ramp into the cargo aircraft.
U.S. and Turkish Airmen, U.S. State Department officials at the Kirkuk Provincial Reconstruction Team, or PRT, and Turkish Red Crescent Society medical responders helped coordinate and facilitate the flight for injured victims of a June 20 suicide truck bombing in Taza District, south of Kirkuk city.
The ball was among the gifts, including stuffed animals, which Airmen gave children as they waited in the ambulances before driving on the parking apron. It was a small act of humanity in the wake of cruelty.
The health minister of Iraq's Kurdistan region asked neighboring countries to provide aid for wounded victims following the explosion that left more than 80 people dead and more than 255 people injured.
The Turkish government, PRT officials including an assigned Army civil affairs battalion, Coalition Forces including 506th Air Expeditionary Group Airmen and the 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, provincial leaders and relief workers stepped in to provide support.
The success of the aeromedical evacuation was made possible only thanks to the tremendous cooperation, extraordinary flexibility and rapid reaction of those involved, said Martin Aversa, a governance section head with the PRT. His sentiments were echoed by a local leader
"Very great support, even from the first day," said Kirkuk Province Police Maj. Gen. Abdul Rahman Yousif Turhan as he stood at the plane's ramp door. "(Coalition Forces were) the first out to give us support: water, food, security; lights to allow people to work (at night)," he said.
"This aerial evacuation demonstrates the close cooperation shared by coalition forces at Kirkuk Air Base with our Iraqi and Turkish partners" said Col. Eric Overturf, 506 AEG commander, as he watched the team effort. "No one on this ramp is arguing about politics or who to blame or who should get credit, they are just working together to help those in need."
Riding in the first Iraqi ambulance entering the base was Walide Abulah Tawfiq, who was responsible for managing the transfer of patients from Kirkuk General Hospital. After checking on his patient, who was on a gurney in the back, he said many of the victims flying out to Turkey suffer from broken and fractured extremities; some are in critical conditions, and most are accompanied by family members.
Before the ambulances pulled up to the aircraft's open cargo door, Airmen, Soldiers, relief workers and aircrew helped unfold and stage stretchers to trans-loading the patients and reconfigured the aircraft.
Among them was Staff Sgt. Steven Reed, who has been here less than one week and is assigned to the Kirkuk provincial reconstruction team's mission support element.
"I'm adding my contribution to the fight against terrorism," he said when asked what he was doing. A volunteer on this hot day, the Ypsilanti, Mich., native said he likes helping others.
Prior to the patients' loading, the Turkish aircrew and 506th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron Airmen downloaded three cargo pallets with 12 tons of relief supplies, including tents, blankets, kitchen equipment, food parcels and medical supplies. Many of these items were taken to the gate and handed over to a delegation from Taza, headed by its mayor.
Commonly known as the "Mighty Hercules," this day the C-130 might better be labeled a "Mercy Hercules."
This work, Aeromedical Evacuation: Coalition Forces, Kirkuk officials partner to care for bombing victims, by SSgt Jessica Lockoski, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.