Wounded warriors recuperate in upgraded facility
June 26, 2011
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan--As a combat medic in a war zone, Pfc. Robert Madrid, assigned to 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, based out of Fort Riley, Kan., is the first response if a member of his troop has been injured.
While conducting a foot patrol outside of their combat outpost, Madrid and his squad were attacked with rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire. Without hesitation he responded to the contact by shooting back with his M4 Carbine assault rifle. During the incident, Madrid, a native of Escalon, Calif., was shot in the right forearm. He said he immediately irrigated his wound and provided self-aid.
Following the incident Madrid was taken to NATO Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit on Kandahar Airfield resulting in his arm being put in a cast. The injuries he suffered from the attack did not require him to receive further treatment but they did stop him from performing his duties with his unit.
Servicemembers are brought to the Wounded Warrior Care Center on KAF to recuperate from minor battlefield injuries. If Soldiers have their uniforms cut for medical reasons, civilian clothes are provided for them at the center. Clothing items like shirts, pants, socks, underwear, flip-flops and hygiene products are provided to them upon arrival.
The day room at the WWCC has televisions and couches for servicemembers to watch movies or play video games. Snacks, furniture and books are all donated to the center.
The noncommissioned officer in charge of the WWCC is Staff Sgt. Ellen Smith, a health care specialist assigned to 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, based out of Fort Riley, Kan., makes sure Soldiers at the WWCC are taken care of by setting them up with a room and making sure they make their appointments.
She said the WWCC is a place for servicemembers to recuperate from shrapnel injuries, broken limbs or other battlefield wounds. Once in good health, the wounded warrior is able to return to their respective units.
“We help Soldiers recover from slight injuries,” said Smith. “We assist them with bandage changes; make sure they are taking their medication, and take them to their medical appointments.”
Madrid said he was unaware of the WWCC before he was sent there to recover from his injuries. He said the center is in a good location on KAF, it is close to the post-exchange, dining facility and gym. He said so far he has enjoyed his time at the WWCC.
“The noncommissioned officers here are doing a real good job taking care of the Soldiers,” said Madrid.
Smith, of Alexandria, La., said she likes her duty position as NCOIC of the WWCC. She likes the fact that she gets to see servicemembers get well and go back to their units.
In the past, injured servicemembers had to stay at Role 3, but the hospital couldn’t maintain them due to lack of space for more serious patients. Soldiers would be sent back to their units where they were unable to perform their duties. The WWCC fills that gap in between.
Conditions are improving every day at the WWCC. A ramp and walkway was built recently making it easy for servicemembers to get around the facility. Smith said she is happy with the upgrading of the center and the donations the WWCC receives. Internet and phone lines have been installed at the center so servicemembers can speak to their loved ones back home.
Another Soldier staying at the WWCC, Sgt. Keith Anderson, assigned to 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, based out of Fort Drum, N.Y., said it is a stress-free environment for Soldiers who need to recover from their injuries.
“This is my first time being wounded,” said Anderson, of Southbridge, Mass. “It’s a new experience for me.”
Anderson said his time at the WWCC has been easy going and relaxed. He has had the opportunity to call back home to his family and friends. The 28-year-old infantryman was sent to the WWCC to recover from injuries he received after his vehicle hit a roadside bomb.
He said he never heard of the WWCC prior to his injury, but appreciates what it provides for injured servicemembers.
“The WWCC helps Soldiers trying to heal from their injuries get their mind back in the game, so when they go back to their units they are fully focused, re-energized and ready to go after the Taliban,” Anderson said.
The wounded warriors enjoy their stay at the WWCC, but most of them say the same thing" they can’t wait to get back to their units.
Madrid has an appointment to have his cast removed in a few days. “I can’t wait to get this cast off of my arm and get back with my unit, with my guys,” he said.
“I’m ready to get back out and do what I came here to do. I think the WWCC helps with the transition of going back to my unit an easy one,” Anderson said.
As a combat medic, Smith said she enjoys her current duty position of providing medical treatment to wounded servicemembers at the WWCC because Soldiers often thank her before they head back to their units.
“Soldiers like having some place they can go and recuperate,” Smith said. “We’re just trying to make it a more comfortable recuperation for the Soldiers.”