Soldiers aid avalanche victims in Afghanistan
February 25, 2010
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Feb. 25, 2010) -- Soldiers from the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Falcon, flew to the aid of avalanche victims in northern Afghanistan, Feb. 9.
A series of avalanches struck the Salang Pass, a major route between Kabul and northern Afghanistan, early that morning, sending Apaches from TF Knighthawk, TF Falcon, into action.
"Our Apaches provided overhead security and located (landing zones) for aircraft to land and pick up victims," said Staff Sgt. Tremayne Gilchrist, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, TF Falcon and battle noncommissioned officer for TF Falcon. "They also searched for people we couldn't see. They gave the ground units grid coordinates when they found other survivors."
As the sun rose higher, Chinooks from Company B, TF Knighthawk, TF Falcon took to the skies, landing at the Salang Pass tunnel, the highest tunnel in the world, to gather survivors and bring them to Bagram Airfield. The passenger terminal at Bagram Airfield was temporarily shut down and re-designed as an initial entry point where medical teams and volunteers were poised to assist the incoming mass casualties.
"TF Falcon medics were some of the first people on the scene, and they did an outstanding job," said Lt. Col. Katrina Hall, HHC, TF Falcon, and brigade surgeon. "Sgt. 1st Class (Shylonda) Wallace, a medic with HHC, TF Falcon, directed patients where to go. Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Cardona, medic with TF Workhorse, TF Falcon, organized the site, and the medics handled the situation efficiently and were professional when working with the patients. They all responded well and took on whatever job was needed."
Those with serious injuries were taken to the Craig Joint Theater Hospital to be treated. Task Force Falcon medics worked to 9 p.m. that evening, returning the next morning at 5 a.m. More than 260 patients were helped and many of them were able to leave the following day.
"The U.S. mission here in Afghanistan is a difficult one because the people who are wearing an Afghan National Security Force uniform today may be the same ones who are planting an IED tomorrow," said Hall. "Being able to provide assistance to these people today was an honor, not just because it will hopefully plant a seed that will change the hearts and minds, but because providing care to those in need is what we do."