Twice-wounded Soldier Returns to Duty
November 27, 2007
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - A Soldier serving her third combat deployment returned to Afghanistan Nov. 12 from undergoing medical treatment in Germany after suffering her second injury from two Improvised Explosive Device detonations.
New Brunswick, N.J., native Spc. Cassandra L. Miles volunteered to return after suffering a mild concussion and possible Mild Traumatic Brain Injury as a result of the IED attack she survived on Oct. 28 and another attack earlier this year when she suffered minor headaches and burns.
Serving as a medic attached to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, an IED exploded near her Humvee door during a patrol in Logar Province.
Feeling the need to care for her unit, Spc. Miles asked to be returned to the aid-station and medical platoon at FOB Shank to assume her duties as soon as possible.
"A lot of people don't understand that we're very shorthanded as it is and my section is more of a family than anything," Spc. Miles said. "Unless I had to definitely go home and I had no choice then I was going to go back."
Spc. Miles has counted her blessings and is grateful to be feeling well again.
"I feel like I'm blessed," Spc. Miles said. "I'm alive with my limbs and my legs and I shouldn't be because of where the impact was. I shouldn't even be here, but I'm still capable of doing what I've got to do-treat patients."
She is part of a medical platoon where more than half of the medics are females who roll outside the wire with infantry Paratroopers on a daily basis.
"It's a hard job for a woman to prove herself to an infantry platoon that she can do the same thing a male can do and that she can carry it out on a constant basis," Spc. Miles said.
Spc. Miles credits her platoon leader, Army 2nd Lt. Adam Davies of Houston for a positive work environment despite the harsh conditions.
"He really sticks his neck out there for us and takes care of us," Spc. Miles said. "He fights our battles that we can't fight without having the rank."
Army Pfc. Megan Anstiss, a medic from Eau Claire, Mich., another member of the medical platoon assigned to a maneuver element agrees with Miles.
"It's sort of like a family," Pfc. Anstiss said. "We're all very close. We all look out for each other and we argue and all that good stuff too sometimes, but it's a good place to work."
Both female Soldiers have been able to prove themselves to their male comrades.
"You have to do what they do," Pfc. Anstiss said. "When they get out of the truck; you get out of the truck. When something breaks, you help fix it. You're there when you're supposed to be. Don't do the girly stuff. If you act like a Soldier, they'll treat you like a Soldier."
Male or female, Army medics do a tough and dangerous job on a daily basis out of FOB Shank.
"If anyone gets hurt, we get out of the kill zone and treat the patient," Pfc. Anstiss said. "If it becomes a situation where there are not enough personnel to return fire or nobody's hurt, then we would return fire."
Spc. Miles detailed one of the toughest firefights she's endured.
"It was scary," she said. "I was taking care of my patient. We had a guy who had [a Rocket Propelled Grenade] in the undercarriage [of his seat in the Humvee] and when it blew up he had shrapnel on his lower back all the way down to his upper knees. I was trying to take care of him all the way back, but we kept continuously getting hit for about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles)... and it's not abnormal."
The last IED attack Spc. Miles suffered put her in and out of consciousness. She was evacuated to Bagram Airfield and sent to Germany to undergo further treatment.
"We sent her to Bagram to check for possible MTBI. That's something that we're seeing a lot of," 2nd Lt. Davies said. "The Army had just come up with a plan that everybody in the entire Army had to have MTBI and [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] training and we gave that training."
Spc. Miles' case is not a singular incident. MTBI and PTSD have become a major cause of concern for the Army.
"They did it because of so many cases that are happening between [Operation Enduring Freedom] and [Operation Iraqi Freedom]," 2nd Lt. Davies said. "Coincidentally, during the same month that we were giving the training, we evacuated 26 casualties. Of those, half had some form of MTBI."
Throughout Afghanistan, both male and female Army medics are enduring similar hardships but Miles' attitude is common among Soldiers and Paratroopers.
"I'm just doing my job," Spc. Miles said. "Unfortunately we don't have the number of males needed or required... and I couldn't leave my guys, so I asked the doctor if I could return back to country."