We all know or in one way remember the buddy system. When you were a kid at camp you had a buddy that you had to go everywhere with, or as an adult if you’re walking home at night maybe it’s good idea to take a buddy. Generally we know this concept as a safety in numbers kind of philosophy. The Air Force however has a different approach on the buddy system, it’s called the “wingman concept”, and it’s not just about walking home alone at night from a bar, it’s a philosophy that they want to permeate into every aspect of everyone’s life. It goes beyond being safe in a dark alley, it goes into suicide prevention, co-dependance on your other airman, and in my opinion and many others a very distorted maladaptive way of building what the Air Force considers personal resilience. Read more
The most terrifying thing possible for a young physician without any considerable post graduate training is to be alone in the middle of Africa with an overweight, hypertensive, diabetic, middle aged male that starts complaining of the tell-tale crushing substernal chest pain. Oh yeah, and without any real cardiac drugs. Spend enough time in one place and the worst case scenario will eventually happen, and it eventually happened to me. Read more
event date: Nov 2011
The day, or I should say night started like any other night in the plywood palace that was our clinic in Afghanistan. Constituted eggs for breakfast, followed by sick call, or as it should have been known, ambien call. Followed again by constituted eggs for lunch. Somewhere in the monotony the phone rang, and the night got more interesting. A CASEVAC in the SOF world seems to typically be initiated by some guy at a desk that we don’t know, calling some guy at a desk that we do know about some guy in the field that got shot that nobody knows. This was that kind of phone call. The medical planner asked us if we could be ready to go with all of our gear in 15min to respond to a casualty at an out station. Little information was given, he didn’t really know that much just that it was a solider with a gun shot wound to the head that was critical, but stabilized. There would be a plane ready to take off in about 20min. Read more
One of the ultimate hypocrisies I’ve noticed in the military is the obsession with preaching safety when at home. Driving 15mph on base, wearing a reflective belt in inclement weather, not running with earbuds in, the list goes on. On the surface you might think, this is great, they really care about keeping people safe and mitigating our risk, and would never put us in harms way. Then you get to a combat zone and you have this realization that there is not a reflective belt in the world that will protect you from an incoming mortar, a stray bullet, or some crazy ass Afghan solider that decides one day to point his rifle at the wrong team. If they had the same obsession with safety downrange that they do at home maybe they wouldn’t make me live in a plywood box with no reinforcement, but I’m starting to think that is about as likely as them issuing me a giant metallic hamster ball that I can roll around in fully protected from all forms of flying metal objects. Read more
The first time I heard the loud speaker shout out “INCOMING INCOMING” I nearly fell off the couch in the clinic where at least I thought I was enjoying a fairly peaceful meal. This was my first IDF attack in Afghanistan. IDF stands for Indirect Fire, basically bad guys run around in villages outside of the base and indiscriminately launch mortar rounds towards all the shiny lights without much care for aim. Unfortunately they are a fairly common occurrence, but this was my first. Read more
So after five months in Afghanistan I have a couple stories to tell. I should mention that since some of the people I work with have fairly classified jobs, or as we call them “secret squirrels”, I changed a lot of the locations, names, etc. in anything I put on here.
If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last couple years about being special ops and working basically in the shadows is that it generally sounds way cooler than it really is. I think this goes for just about any job as a physician that seems exciting and different. The bottom line is that no matter who your taking care of, or where in the world it is, from the presidents personal doc to the super secret CIA spy doctor at the end of the day your job and only job is to take care of people and try to provide the same care as you would anywhere back home. The only thing that really changes is the scenery, which in my case meant living in a plywood palace, being on nights for five months straight and not really seeing the sun. However, the less than optimal living conditions were offset by getting to work with some of the most badass people on the planet, and generally a community of people that take their job seriously, deeply care about what they do, and are generally just fun to be around. I was also occasionally rewarded with some truly incredible sunrises coming over 14,000 foot mountaintops. Read more