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    Army Medicine's Immediate Response to Operation Allies Refuge

    Taking a Moment

    Photo By Maj. Jeffrey Gruidl | Maj. Jonda Henderson (Right) a 66S critical care nurse with the 936th Forward...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    3rd Medical Command Deployment Support

    The United States military’s humanitarian and evacuation response at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) for Operation Allies Refuge, along with the tragic events of Aug. 26, remain etched in our minds.
    With the withdrawal from Afghanistan actively ongoing, a dynamic situation existed at HKIA, which required an adaptable and ready medical force.
    A contingent of joint and multi-national medical providers, with a mixture of more than a dozen 936th Forward Resuscitative Surgical Detachment (FRSD) Soldiers and Norwegian medical forces; later augmented with U.S. and Coalition Armed Forces Medical Services, moved to action. These providers, operating out of a role 2 Enhanced (R2E) Medical Treatment Facility (MTF), continually engaged and treated military and civilian patients from mid-August until the last elements of the 82nd Airborne Division departed on Aug. 30.
    R2E provides basic secondary healthcare, built around primary surgery, an intensive care unit, and ward beds with the MTF able to stabilize post-surgical cases for evacuation. These medical providers included junior and senior Soldiers comprising of combat medics, preventive medicine specialists, nurses, and physicians, who worked around the clock. They maintained security and staffed trauma and patient recovery teams. During this mission, they also assisted a British Surgeon in delivering a newborn baby.
    MTF personnel treated those in need of immediate medical care, and provided food, water, shelter, and sanitation. Their efforts ultimately prevented a public health crisis during the evacuation mission. In addition, the R2E MTF coordinated with the U.S. Department of State, coalition partners, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in efforts to care for vulnerable Afghans.
    “One of the first things that stood out to me was when the civilians initially rushed the airfield,” said Maj. Katherine Sego, commander of the 936th FRSD and a 66T emergency room nurse. “We would look across the airfield and see a large wall of people. We didn’t know what they were planning on doing.”
    “It was chaotic,” Sego said of the situation in mid-August, adding, “But eventually, everything settled down, including the constant day and night gunfire outside the gate, into a more normal routine.”
    Part of this normal routine was lending a helping hand wherever needed. Col. Kenneth Nelson, an active duty 61M orthopedic surgeon attached to the 936th FRSD, was in the orphanage the morning of Aug. 26 and noticed the kids were bored with the potential of getting into trouble.
    “I have four boys, I know the warning signs and Afghan kids are not all that different,” Nelson said. “I remembered all the games and puzzles we had in the USO, so I took a rickshaw with a gurney loaded it up with balls, games, and toiletries. Brought everything back to the orphanage building and gave it to the UNICEF people for the kids. It was a massive hit.”
    Shortly after this small highlight, everyone’s reality was shattered by the suicide-bomb that killed 13 service members.
    “Everyone was aware and on alert to a threat, but just like that, everything changed,” Nelson said. “Standing in the ER, it hit me right then that this one was really going to be bad. It got very real when I saw the service members in there.”
    “We prepared and were ready for the worse case with the hope we will not be needed,” Sego said. “Throughout our deployment, we rehearsed and practiced doing what was needed. The team practiced weekly during the deployment. Some of these events were conducted with other teams and countries at HKAI, such as 10th Mountain, Italians and Norwegians,” she added.
    Working non-stop for the next 18-plus hours HKIA R2E MTF tirelessly treated patients, managed major traumas, and performed resuscitative surgery throughout the night to stabilize casualties, while also evacuating service members, U.S. Citizens and vulnerable Afghan citizens.
    In addition to treating patients, Nelson, Sego and other service members assisted wherever needed.
    “We provided significant care for infants and children awaiting placement within the hospital,” Sego said.
    Despite the evolving and uncertain circumstances, Nelson found positivity in the situation.
    “I was pick-pocketed by a three-year-old boy who cried when I looked at him,” Nelson said. “He started to cry, then ran up to me, grabbed my leg, reached into my cargo pocket, took out a package of peanuts, and ran off smiling with his prize.”
    For Sego, her final memory is more somber, it is of the ramp ceremony for the fallen service members. “The procession of caskets and friends of the fallen was the saddest thing I have ever seen and I will carry that with me forever,” she said.
    In the end, the actions of the HKIA R2E MTF were critical to the successful evacuation of more than 120,000 U.S. citizens, allies, and refugees and they were some of the last medical Soldiers to redeploy from Afghanistan.
    Despite the very dangerous and rapidly evolving tactical situation, the members of the 936th FRSD, R2E MTF never failed in their mission and can proudly proclaim to be the last U.S. Army FRSD in Afghanistan, and some of the last U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers to serve there.



    Date Taken: 11.24.2021
    Date Posted: 11.24.2021 22:18
    Story ID: 409978
    Location: AF

    Web Views: 630
    Downloads: 1