By Army Staff Sgt. Adora Medina
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 24, 2008 - As soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, fight in the Taliban-infested terrain of Afghanistan's Konar province, Task Force Spader medics are busy fighting a completely different battle: one to save lives. "We have, unfortunately, received quite a few casualties, and we've also had a few fallen heroes, but the fighting is daily," said Army 1st Lt. Timothy Anderson, a 1-26th medical officer and Knoxville, Tenn., native.
"I don't remember a day being here that at least one of our companies within Task Force Spader hadn't had some type of enemy attack against them," Anderson said. "So every day it's a potential that we will be conducting some type of evacuation."
Due to frequent encounters with enemy fighters, the 1st ID medics must respond quickly when treating the wounded. To ensure they are ready for combat, new medics arriving to the task force must pass a series of training events before being pushed out into the battle space.
"For each soldier coming here, we conduct trauma lanes, and basically it just gives us as leaders an assessment of their medical reaction skills," Anderson explained. "It's not that we don't feel that they're proficient in their actual skills, but how they will react in a simulated combat environment."
So far, the medics have surpassed their leaders' expectations, going above and beyond to keep their fellow infantrymen in the fight.
"I only got to the unit two months before we deployed," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Lane, a 1-26th medic platoon sergeant, and El Paso, Texas, native.
"I was kind of worried that I never really got to train with them and see what they can do," Lane said. "But they surprised me, especially our line medics that are out there in the [forward operating bases]. They're out there alone, and they do an outstanding job."
The line medics cover a lot of ground as they are spread out among the 1-26th companies, and they won't stop at anything to save the lives of their comrades, even if it means putting themselves in harm's way.
"We had a soldier up at the [Korengal Outpost], and the report I received was that he was injured and still treating the six other casualties," Anderson said. "He still stayed with the philosophy of 'soldiers first,' and treated his patients to make sure that they were squared away."
That philosophy seems to be unanimous among the Blue Spader medics, as a similar incident occurred with Army Sgt. Reagan Stockman, another forward deployed medic. While conducting a mission with his company, Stockman came under enemy contact. With no regard for his own safety, he went out to administer aid to the injured. Only after every casualty was properly treated did he receive care for himself.
"It's a pattern," Anderson said. "We consistently get those same types of reports that that's how the forward combat medics conduct business."
Aside from saving soldiers' lives, the medics also provide care to the local population, opening their gates daily to the sick and wounded.
"Within our first six weeks here, we've seen [more than] 750 patients, mainly local nationals, and we've seen through our aid station here alone probably around 20 or 30 trauma patients," Lane said.
Medical care doesn't end there, as the medics travel around to the various towns and villages to cater to the community's medical needs.
In providing care to the infantrymen on the ground and the local citizens in Konar province, Anderson said, the Blue Spader medics are winning the war, one patient at a time.
(Army Staff Sgt. Adora Medina serves with the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)