I've spent the last week at Al Qaim, home of the Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment (3/6) and the HQ element of Regimental Combat Team 2 (RCT-2). Close to the Syrian border, the base is certainly one of the driest and dustiest (is that a word?) locations I've visited. The sand here is unlike any sand I've ever seen - it's as fine as talcum powder and one easily sinks ankle-deep into its micro fine grains. Watching the powder squirt through the lugsole treads on the sides of your boots as you walk is captivating. I liken it to the way water is displaced from the tread of a car tire on a slow-motion bridgestone commercial.
RCT-2 has taken some serious losses over the past couple days. On Wednesday morning, a report came into the TACC indicating 2/1 had suffered heavy casualties in urban fighting near Ubaydi. Marines from 2/1 had entered a courtyard and were ambushed by insurgents who attacked with IED's, gunfire and hand grenades. Before the fight was over, 3 Marines were dead, 2 were not expected to live, and another dozen or more were critically injured. One lucky Marine was shot twice in the head, only to be saved by his Kevlar helmet. The wounded Marines suffered horrible trauma; multiple gunshot wounds, fragment wounds, broken bones, leg and extremity injuries. The 2 most critically injured Marines passed away during surgery. Their passing is a loss for all of us.
The heroes of the day were the soldiers from the 571st Medical Company - Air Ambulance, aka: the "Witch Doctors." They are the flight crews who fly into harms way to rescue the wounded. They are dedicated soldiers who see the ugly side human nature every time they fly. These guys fly enter the line of fire to pull our Marines and soldiers out of harms way. They too have suffered loss, with 2 of their aircraft and crews lost over the last year.
I was inside the "FRISS" (Forward Resuscitative Surgical System) this afternoon when the "Witchdoctors" received a medevac call. The corresponding radio traffic indicated a child had received an unknown wound and needed urgent medical care. Generally, wounded civilians are not afforded treatment unless the wounds are caused by direct military action. After several minutes of "on again - off again" indecision, it was determined the child's wounds were a direct result of the ongoing actions and the bird was enroute. Minutes later, the helo touched down on the LZ, bringing in the latest victim of war. Unlike the Marines of 2/1, however, this lucky child will live to see another day.