The holiday season is upon us. Everyone is getting ready for their various religious and secular activities. The vast majority of American will be spending the time with family and friends. Not all.
Many Airmen are deployed around the world, far from their loved ones.
Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan, International Security Assistance Force Joint
Command, Afghanistan, recently wrote a blog about spending the holidays deployed to Afghanistan. Someone in the White House must have liked it. Sergeant Gallahan’s “Holiday Cheer for the Heroes” post appears on The White House Blog. He writes how appreciative servicemembers are to receive support from the American public, whether through simple cards or video greetings.
Then there were the holiday cards and smiles. I didn’t anticipate that.
At each location I visited, there were all these cards and banners reassuring the soldiers America loved them, supported them and prayed for their safe return. I saw soldier upon soldier holding these cards up and showing their friends what amusing little anecdote was scribbled within. The only possessions these soldiers had were what they could carry on their back and holiday cards from school children from across our beautiful nation.
These letters, cards, candies, cookies … especially cookies … reach these guys and bring smiles to their faces when happiness in warzones is a rare commodity.
But these days, sending care packages via mail to such remote sites is really hard, especially since you need to know someone here before you can send anything (for security reasons, sending them to units or “any soldier” is no longer allowed). The Department of Defense has a site though, that allows you to send video messages to service members. It’s a great way to show support over the holidays and is a lot faster than mail, which can take a month or more, sometimes, to arrive here.
Congratulations, Sergeant Gallahan, on the honor!
Pararescue in Afghanistan
What’s it like for Airmen who are dedicated to saving the lives of others? Fortunately, I’ve never had to rely on the services of pararescuemen during my deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Squadron highlights capabilities during Afghan rescue mission gives a first-hand look at the Airmen of the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron of Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
A soldier is wounded during a joint British and Afghanistan National Army
patrol in Helmand Province. Shot through both legs, his condition worsens while being cared for by the medics. It is time to call in the professionals to get him off the battlefield and to the hospital. The radios erupt with words the crews had been standing by for:
Rushing from their squadron tents and huts, located close to the flightline and their HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, the crews run to the waiting aircraft, strap in, start the engines and within minutes they are airborne on their way to the patient.
Time is of the essence and these Airmen from the 66th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron take it very seriously.
On board the helicopter, racing back to the base, the pararescuemen work as a team, tending to the patient. One handles all injuries below the waist, while the other takes care of any concerns above. They work quickly to bandage the wound on the left leg, preventing any further blood loss and verifying no nerve damage occurred.
Whiteman Airman survives IED blast
One thing I learned at the Indiana University School of Journalism and the Defense Information School is the danger of using a quote lead. The instructors warned against using them. They rarely work well to grab the reader’s attention, the instructors said.
Sometimes, they work.
Here’s one that grabbed my attention from Whiteman Airman recalls moment of terror:
“I don’t remember seeing a flash or hearing a boom. I just remember waking up in the turret with my head on fire.”
That is what Staff Sgt. Charles Holley recalled from the moment an improvised explosive device exploded and bathed his Humvee in fire last year in Tiqurit [sic], Iraq.
This excellent feature tells of an Airman’s actions following an improvised explosive device attack on the vehicle he served as gunner.
(Pentagon Airman is written by Master Sgt. Russell P. Petcoff, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs.)