By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein, U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public AffairsJuly 10, 2007
The quick actions of Army medics following a June 28 mortar attack here proved critical in helping save an Air Force broadcaster's life.
Tech. Sgt. Jeramie Brown, an Air Force broadcaster with a news team at Forward Operating Base Murray was injured from shrapnel from a mortar and two Soldiers quickly responded to care for the Airman.
"I saw the flash from behind the door," said Army Spc. Joseph O'Brien, who was exiting the latrine. "I knew it was close."
His fellow medic, Army Spc. Paul Brown, was nearby in the make-shift emergency room in the house once owned by Baath Arab Socialist Party officials during Saddam Hussein's regime, which had been converted into a command center for military members at the base on the banks of the Tigris River. He didn't wait for anyone to confirm the blast he heard was a close mortar hit -- he just knew there was a potential for injuries.
"I could tell from the sound that it hit in the back and I knew there were people back there," Specialist O'Brien said. "So I just took off."
Both medics, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment here, arrived at the blast site to find Sergeant Brown down on a cot, his legs torn up by shrapnel that had projected out of the mortar.
Specialist Brown said he remembered seeing Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi, the news team photographer, and Capt. Stephan Edwards, an executive officer visiting the Air Force joint tactical air controllers here, applying direct pressure with their hands to Sergeant Brown's wounds. Without hesitation, he leapt onto the cot, digging his knees into Sergeant Brown's thighs to provide additional pressure.
"It was really just an automatic response for me," he said. "We get so much training and so many injuries out here; you just go, especially when there is such a large amount of blood."
After applying tourniquets to Sergeant Brown's legs to stop the bleeding, the medics, along with Sergeant Varhegyi and Captain Edwards, rushed him to the emergency room. Other 1/30th medics and doctors prepped him for an emergency medical evacuation. In less than an hour after the mortar hit, Sergeant Brown was in surgery in a Baghdad field hospital where it was determined that a chunk of shrapnel severed a large vein in his left leg, amongst other injuries to his shins. His prognosis was good, because of the quick care he received in the field.
"This was the second mortar injury in two weeks here," Specialist O'Brien said. "But also my first Air Force injury."
The two Soldiers, who have been in country for a few months, said it was just another day on the job for them, and that it doesn't matter what branch of service or nationality their patients come from.
"Since I've been out here, I've treated a lot of Soldiers, as well as some of our Iraqi detainees and injured civilians," Specialist Brown said. "In my mind, if a person needs medical care, they need medical care and it is my job to give them that care to the best of my ability with respect and professionalism."
In the time they've been deployed here, they've seen a variety of injuries, from severe trauma to head colds or infected cuts. They also pointed out that self-aid and buddy care has proven its worth in nearly every traumatic situation.
"(SABC) has definitely made our jobs easier," said Specialist O'Brien, who has deployed twice to Iraq. "In most cases, there are no medics around right away, so the peers are doing everything they need to do. It's helping a lot."
He said that while they sometimes see disturbing situations, his training has helped, and his noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders create a supportive environment within the stressful location.
"We're like a family out here," he said. "We wind down by playing chess or watching movies. We're open with each other, so we talk about the stress of being out here. We have a lot of medics; some even go out with the security teams, and so we try to look out for each other."
Just hours after Sergeant Brown was evacuated from the FOB, the medics were already preparing for their next potential patients as Soldiers rolled out the gate as part of a major security offensive in the local villages. The medics sterilized equipment and ensured enough room and litters were available to accommodate possible injuries.
"When a patient comes in, he's usually terrified and scared he is going to die," Specialist O'Brien said. "But when his face relaxes, when he's calm, that makes me smile. That's when I know I've earned his trust. He trusts that I, and my team, will work hard to save his life."