By Staff Sgt. Robert Wollenberg, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 15, 2008 - Five medics received Army Achievement Medals on Feb. 9 for their actions following the bombing of the Serena Hotel, in Kabul, by Taliban forces Jan. 14. Army Sgt. Jason Fortenberry and Spcs. Isiah Soto, Sean Meenan, Andrew Truong and Sarah Nickol, who deployed together from Fort Bragg, N.C., responded by rendering aid to the victims of the attack.
"The medics did a great job," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Karla Tapia, a platoon sergeant. She said the unit members were lucky the situation didn't get as bad as they expected it to, but they were prepared for the worst.
Tapia and Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Brian Gomez coordinated the medics' efforts from Camp Eggers.
After the medics received a call about the incident at the hotel, they assembled their gear and joined force protection troops to travel to the hotel.
At the hotel, there were issues with communication. But they were quickly resolved. "At first there was a huge gap between reality and what we were being told," Nickol said.
The medics initially were informed by a security guard that there was only one casualty inside the hotel. Then they heard about another casualty at a different location, and then another.
"At first it was a little hectic because there were two different buildings," Mennan said. "There was one injury at the first building we went to, but (security people at the hotel) kept saying there was more and we couldn't see them. So it was a little hectic trying to find where the patients were."
The group treated at least seven casualties. Two were transported to a medical facility at Kabul International Airport.
"This was my first off-base response. Usually the patients are brought to us," Mennan said. "I was a firefighter before, so I've seen patients before, but I've never seen it from gunshot wounds and explosions. So it was a little different knowing it wasn't a peaceful injury; someone deliberately set out to take their life."
"We're the only medics that go outside the wire," Tapia said. "We're known as the 911 of Kabul city. Anything that happens outside the wire, we get called."
"We made a difference and impacted someone's life. That's why I get involved; that's why I became a medic, to do good," Mennan said.
"Our job is a love-hate-type relationship; (we) love to help people but hate to have to do it because that means someone messed up," Fortenberry said.
The medics have been deployed since January 2007 are are scheduled to return to Fort Bragg in April.
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Wollenberg is assigned to Combined Security Transition Command Iraq Public Affairs.)