I return from Texas a little less naive about what life might be like for the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and special forces that are living their lives half way around the world. The week of training started out with being dumped with an old military backpack, helmet, a fake M16, CBRNE protective equipment (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosives) a rainsuit, gloves, canteens, and a vest with protective plates inserted to stop bullets (I forget what they're called!). It probably added up to be about 40 lbs of gear. We were then shuffled to our cots in our hutments which made up our home for the next 8 days. The first 3 days were filled with lectures and classes about combat casualty care and deployment life. The docs, nurses, dentists and PA's had various classes to attend.
Deployment didn't sound too bad while I sat in the padded seats of the auditorium. I thought it would be an adventure to go work with the soldiers and thought of how much of a difference I might be able to make while over there.
Then we switched gears and headed out to the field carrying the 40 lbs of gear, loading in and out of 4 foot high trucks with no shock pads or ladder to aid in getting into the vehicle. They took us through various exercises including an airplane crash where we had to run into the smoky plane and find the bodies (mannequins) and give them basic aid such as placing tourniquets and triaging them to get them to the nearest clinic while our private instructors would be yelling at us asking if we were going to let the soldiers leg bleed out and to hurry up and move! We had to charge into an area where we would drop to our bellies at the sound of gunshots only to get up quickly and run another 5-10 feet. We had to carry a wounded soldier through a obstacle course and put on an airtight mask in less than 8 seconds... these are just a few of the exercises we experienced.
The field was when all my romantic notions of war and deployment were flushed down the toilet. It was only 80 degrees at Fort Bullis in San Antonio, TX while it might be 120 degrees in Iraq and I was sweating through my cami. My eyes welled up with tears numerous times at the thought of this being a reality and soldiers truly having their legs blown off or faces burned up, at soldiers truly riding in the back of trucks vulnerable to the bombs that might be set off at any time. I hate war. I hate that it is a reality. I hate that it is a way of life for some. I hate that young men and women who should be starting careers and families, and hunting with their dads, playing college sports or going to the college football games are actually out learning how to hunt Taliban, living thousands of miles from families, receiving "dear John" letters, running so that they are physically strong enough to withstand the rigors of deployment... What kind of world is this!?!?! WHY God?!?!?! That was the reality of this training.
I don't know if I will get deployed. I don't want to. But if I do, I have a taste of what is to come. Challenges create character and I know that this is where God has called me to be. So I remain, but with a bit more heartache and sadness of what is truly going on.
Here are a few pictures of the training:)
Loading a patient on the stretcher.
Loading into the trucks
This is a level 3 center where it is set up similarly to a hospital...where the soldiers could go to surgery and we had more access to the medicine they need.
This is my battle buddy LT Blossom all geared up for a day in the field.
3rd Platoon "Nobody Dies!"
My M16 (fake of course) and MRE...