The clock strikes 7:00AM and I'm awake. A unique day awaits and if all goes as planned the rusty cage that holds me here will be broken; at least for a short time. I'm slated to leave the FOB on a Blackhawk for a training mission. I could just play it safe and be bored another day on the FOB, but the adrenaline inside me is calling; just like every time I throw my wingsuit on and jump out of a plane. I'll be informed of the mission when I meet up with the "Dust Off" team (Blackhawk rescue team) at 1:30PM, but there’s no guarantee I can make it. If a trauma comes in or something else pulls me I’ll have to reschedule; my fingers are crossed.
The day started off with morning report just like every other. Once done I was hit with three orthopedic consults from Charlie Company; most post IED evaluation. If we could figure out a way to rid the theater of IED’s the amount of injuries and death would decrease exponentially. Once finished we were put on notice a trauma might be coming to our FST but after 45 minutes of inpatient waiting the trauma was transferred directly to Baghram. Joe J and I quickly worked out and then I started to prepare for my temporary ticket out of here.
I showed up at the “Dust Off” team building decked out in body armor, Kevlar, and my M9 with 45 rounds. I met the chief pilot who took me out to the bird to give me a safety briefing and show me where I will be sitting during the duration of the 90 minute training exercise. The exercise is part of the RIP/TOA; a transition from the current aviation unit to the 82nd Airborne’s unit. There will be multiple exercises which mostly involve familiarizing the new pilots to the terrain and higher elevations of Afghanistan. After about 20 minutes we were ready to go so I strapped in my 4 point harness next to the other two flight medics who were going along. The engines of the “Steel Angel” began to scream followed by its blades of fury; then we were off. The pilot took the bird up to about 1000 feet and we began cruising over Jalalabad City. An airborne perspective showed just how lush and green this area really was; this did not flow with the third world nature of the local hard structures. Many of the building were deteriorating back to the sand that created them, while new buildings were being created; an equilibrium of sorts. We headed out over the wetlands and rivers at the base of a nearby mountain. Children were swimming and adults were cleaning their cloths in its depths. With as hot as it was, and given the chance, I would be right there with them. We started to climb the elevation of the mountain until we cleared their lower tops; about 8000 feet. Then we proximity flew on its rocky side until we were upon a small flat area near one of the peaks. It was then that multiple high altitude approaches to landing were made by the incoming pilot under the watchful eye of the chief. The views from this peak were spectacular. The landscape was melted in colors of brown to red on a blue sky canvas; multiple rivers carved at the mountain bases. It was not the lush beauty of my personal liking but beautiful none the less. The next stop was a deteriorating sandy city about 15 miles away; at its center a coliseum with stadium seating surrounding a lush lawn. I was told this was a stadium for their national sport “Cricket”. No one was playing in the midday scorching “Ramadan” sun and won’t until the religious holidays end. One interesting sight on the way back to the base was a large ornate swimming pool in the middle of a desert compound miles from Jalalabad City; I wonder who lives there? This trek across the Afghan terrain was a breath of fresh air for me. I’ve never been secluded like this and the chance to get out of my rusty cage was welcome; now I’m back and refreshed for my next challenge; the cage is closed for now.
Keep pushing forward to your dreams; their waiting.