Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Saturday, 16 July 2011
Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Sunday, 10 July 2011
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Monday, 4 July 2011
Thursday, 30 June 2011
Sunday, 26 June 2011
marshmellows, and graham crackers inside
Hazelnut cake: One pack of vanilla cake with vanilla pudding/plain
yogurt drizzled with nutella
Coffee cake: Mix some fine ground coffee in with the vanilla cake batter
and ice with our remaining chocolate frosting
Saturday, 25 June 2011
Friday, 24 June 2011
Monday, 20 June 2011
Hi all! Sorry again for the delay!
First off, a HUGE thank you to the DeKalb Red Cross who shipped almost a dozen care packages for our Red Cross canteen and for the soldiers over here. Pleas know that your donations make a world of difference!
I am safe and well here in Afghanistan and I confess the reason behind the sporadic blog posts is simply that we are all exhausted and burned out. We have 24 days left on our deployment, have not had a day off in over 100 days and given the nature of the work we are doing, each day now seems to take everything out of us.
That being said, we are still hard at work and doing our best to make a difference, it’s just that we used to be able to squeeze in time to do something small for ourselves and that just doesn’t seem to happen anymore. We are just too tired. Anyways! On a happier note, yesterday was one of the best days we’ve had in Afghanistan. The four of us at the Red Cross hosted a wonderful BBQ event with approximately 200 attendees! The BBQ was a combined Father’s Day/Recognition event for supporters of the Red Cross and it could not have been more successful.
Our food was donated by our volunteers or supporting military units. We had most of our desserts shipped from home including fudge, cookies, freeze ice pops (huge hit!) plus we baked several cakes and such in our tiny easy-bake style oven. The 44 Medical Brigade brought dozens of 6-packs of near-beer (since alcohol is prohibited). We had water guns and water balloons sent from home which were a blast. The First Cav Band played for over two hours and were just fantastic plus we had our good friend Chris manning the monster grill and cooking up steaks, burgers and hot dogs.
The event was such a success that we had people stopping in the office or coming up to us in the dining hall long after the event was over to thank us and let us know how much it was appreciated and most importantly, that for a short period of time they felt like they were just at a BBQ and not stuck in a war zone a thousands of miles from friends and family. The best compliment in the world.
Otherwise, every day brings the regular demands. The Fallen Hero Ceremonies occur so regularly that we are attending several funerals a week. I did a MedEvac last night which is always a rewarding though draining experience. I am still making those once or twice a week. We still visit the hospital everyday to talk to the patients there. Last week I had a young guy, 20 years old, in the ICU tell me I was the first female he’d actually had a conversation with in 6 months. He was stationed at a fire base with 150 other guys. Sadly we missed the Egyptian Hospital this week to prep for the BBQ but Ingrid and I hope to perhaps go tomorrow to make up for it.
And finally, I forgot to mention that I have initiated another weekly event at our office. We are having coffee and cake with Timmy the Combat Stress Dog every Wednesday evening and have had quite a bit of success with this event. In fact, the USO actually came over one night and said they wanted to start doing the same thing over at their place! Back off USO! ;-) It is amazing the number of people who will make the effort to come out and visit our office in order to play with Timmy and we have been very pleased with the response! Timmy’s third birthday is actually next week so coming off the success of yesterday’s BBQ I’m in the midst of planning another one for next week!
After that it’s just two more weeks until our replacements arrive! ;-)
Sunday, 12 June 2011
Monday, 6 June 2011
Saturday, 4 June 2011
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Saturday, 28 May 2011
Thursday, 26 May 2011
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
The day was exceptionally hot, over 100 degrees Fahrenheit/37 degrees Celsius. We were given pretty poor directions to the flight line and what could have been a 5 min drive and a short walk to the flight line turned into a mile walk in the wicked heat and our thick, cumbersome military uniforms. I was already thirsty on the walk over and in hindsight I should have paid more attention to this. By the time we got to Delta Ramp we were halfway down the air field and drenched in sweat. We found ourselves over an hour early for the ceremony so we stayed in the shade as much as possible and chatted to the others gathered for the ceremony. About 30 min later we assembled in formation in preparation for the ceremony. One of the members of the color guard, the soldiers who create a walkway to the plane, fainted after standing out in the sun for about 30 min waiting for the ceremony to start.
We stood in formation for 20-30 min before the ceremony got underway, but sadly by this point I was done for. The band started playing and we snapped to attention as 4 Humvees with the caskets back loaded approached the General. The first time we – the visitors on the flight line - saluted the caskets my vision started spinning and I started seeing stars. I was furious with myself at this point, not wanting to disrupt the ceremony and be disrespectful by dropping out of formation, so I told myself to man up and hang in there. I managed to rally for a few minutes before we saluted a second time, my chin dropped to my chest, I felt like I was going to vomit and I was certain I was going to faint which I decided would be a 1,000 times worse than to just step out of formation. I whispered to Ingrid I was going to faint and with the last of the consciousness I had made it over to the airport hanger and dropped to the ground where a Medic came over and gave me a bottle of water. I was somewhat relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one who was with the Medics.
I felt a bit better after drinking half the bottle and I managed to stand up again and at attention while the caskets where loaded onto the plane, but I only stayed up for a minute or two before I thought I was going to drop again. Overall, I was angry with myself for missing the ceremony and I felt like I was disrespecting the fallen, but I was also completely overwhelmed by the whole experience. Many people in the crowd were crying and I found myself close to tears several times and I had never even met these soldiers - and never would which I think was the larger reality. I have never witnessed a celebration representing the honor and dignity and sacrifice of an untimely death. Standing on the flight line with the Hindu Kush Mountains guarding the base and the fighter jets taking off in the background and the military band playing against the drone of the plane engines, it was impossible not to recognize there are few times in a person’s life when they have the chance to be a part of something so… for better or for worse … profound.
Saturday, 21 May 2011
The Armed Forces Day party today ROCKED! (And the world didn’t end :-)
I am so pleased. I took the lead on this event and really had to throw it together last minute and without a lot of resources because we were denied food service support from the dining facility. I had already booked the Combat Stress Dog for the event so we wanted to still do something to celebrate the day and in the end, the party was a huge success and we ended up with far more support and resources than expected. I think we probably had somewhere between 50-60 people over the course of the two hours.
So I did most of the set up from 5-6pm. It took us a while to get the grill going because of this STUPID wind storm that won't quit so we started the grill around 5:15pm. The Special Forces guys learned that our food service request was denied and as such had told us they would supply whatever we needed. Around noon today they dropped off tons of steak and burgers and hot dogs plus all the condiments. Then once we realized the amount of food we had (when we had advertised the event as a dessert party) one of our volunteers stepped up and purchased 5 bags of chips, 4x dozen cans of pop, plastic plates and silverware! So pretty much all we provided was the desserts. I made up plates and plates of Girl Scout Cookies and then we baked a chocolate cake and an apples strudel in the oven we have in the office. Our team leader was experimenting with recipes since we don’t have access to things like eggs out here and we managed to put together some pretty creative desserts (the ingredients for the strudel came from oatmeal packets and little individual butter servings taken from the dining facility. The Chocolate cake was frosted with chocolate pudding that came from a Snack Pack! )
I had one of my teammate’s iPod speakers hooked into my laptop and we were playing music and the combat stress dog was a huge hit, tearing around and playing fetch and slobbering all over everyone. I had advertised the event with flyers that I put up around the base and then I went through the military Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) to advertise the event on the base website and to the base wide listservs. A ton of our friends showed up and it was SUCH an international crowd, there were at least American, British, Kiwi, Australian, Norwegian and UAE that I managed to count, plus a bunch of civilians and contractors. Our office is very difficult to find in our camp so I got at least one email from a friend saying he couldn’t find it and had to give up which makes me wonder how many others might have showed.
We had our emergency message queue covered by the other stations until 8pm and then from 8-9pm I was going from watching the queue and working cases to cleaning up the mess. Easily one of the best nights I’ve had in Afghanistan. Nothing like hosting a party to make the war disappear :-)
Friday, 20 May 2011
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the attack on Bagram where insurgents actually got on base and instigated a firefight between Taliban and US forces http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/05/18/insurgents-launch-complex-attack-bagram-air-field/ . There was a cake at the Dining Facility last night with an In Memorium inscription for the contractor who died. This made for an eerie ambiance when the incoming sirens went off this morning at 3:30am. My team leader and I trucked out the Bhut, me in my sandals and dirty workout clothes (being the only thing I could find to put on in the dark) and we huddled in the bunker with about 6 other guys, one of which ran back to his room directly across from the bunker and brought blankets out for Ingrid and I. As the sirens continued to sound I doubt there was a person among us who wasn’t thinking about the attack on base last year and wondering if perhaps this was an anniversary attack. We were in the bunker for an hour before the all clear sounded which was ample time to let your imagination run…and picturing insurgents charging straight for the bunker was not a particularly pleasant thought.
Then today I got up at 12pm and had to permanently move to a different Bhut room on the other side of camp for a reason apparent to no one but the military. So I showered, went over to billeting, got the key to the new room, packed up all my old room, drove the stuff over to the new room, unpacked and rigged up my bed- tent again. Made of sheets and blankets, I’ve taken to completely tenting in my bed to try and make it easier to sleep during the day. Compared to my old room this one is downright huge. It doesn't have a wall locker however which is disappointing because my clothes are going to get all dirty (dust storms like the one we are having now blow straight through all the little cracks and just coat the room). Speaking of cracks the other thing I am concerned about is that there is nearly an inch between the door frame and the door itself which means that the Bhut will never actually be "night time" dark during the day and the air conditioning escapes out the crack. Ahh well, it’s all part of the experience!
Tomorrow we are having a party with the combat stress dog to celebrate Armed Forces Day which should be fun! Originally it was going to be a BBQ but we were denied food service support from the dining facility so we changed it to a “Desserts in the Desert” event. Then some of our wonderful Special Forces friends offered to sponsor the food for us and it looks like we will indeed be having a BBQ. I just hope this dust storm dies down some! ;-)
Sunday, 15 May 2011
Halfway into my shift and I am dragging!
The Egyptian Hospital is always a rip-roaring mass chaos start to the day and between the hyperness of the kids and my getting up in the middle of the night, I am seriously hurting with 5 hours left in my shift. So take it for what you will, but my teammate and I were the ONLY two volunteers at the Egyptian Hospital today, apart from one US solider in full battle rattle which was unsettling. The only other Western civilian person was a woman who works for the State Department in Women and Gender Studies. I had divided several of the bulk beading kits that you donated into smaller plastic bags, each with a section of plastic string, so that each kid could make their own jewelry. The State Department civilian who speaks Dhari, my teammate and I got all the kids settled down after they started circling me like hyenas when they realized they were doing to get a gift. We were able to maintain order about half way round the circle and then maddness broke loose, honestly when the Afghan women started clambering for the bags. Chaos ensued and one of the women actually made off with the remaining bags! Fortunately she only got away with a few. I honestly wasn't too bothered by the whole thing. Most of the kids got a bag and many of them quietly settled down and started making their bracelets and necklaces together which really made my heart smile.
It was a good learning experience though. It is almost impossible to distribute things in an orderly fashion, especially when the Afghan women become involved. The civilian told me that it killed her to see the Afghans, the grown women in particularly, fighting the children to get whatever they could for free, even a plastic bag full of beads for making jewelry. She was fascinating to talk to as well, and I hope to spend more time with her. She told me that she has been tasked with “empowering women” but she cannot even begin such a task for how foreign this concept is to the Afghan women. She said that their lack of education is so profound that the concept of empowerment does not even exist.
So after the hospital it was back to the office for a team meeting which went surprisingly well. I think our team leader was ready for tears with the upcoming housing move, but everyone held it together. The meeting went a lot longer than we had anticipated but we still managed to go scarf shopping at a new bizarre which made the day seem more like a weekend!
Now I just have to get through the rest of my shift, past the “witching hour” when they like to launch things at us, and I am ready for bed!
Saturday, 14 May 2011
Tuesday, 10 May 2011
It’s been a week since the news of Bin Laden’s death broke around the world and in that time, our base in Afghanistan has been attacked more in one week than it has in the last year. That attack last Tuesday resulted in a crater the size of a bunker less than 100 meters from our office. Although our new circumstances out here are unnerving, keep on keeping on. We have taken to running for the bunkers when the alarms sound and then afterwards returning to the office or to sleeping or to the gym, whatever the activity may have been. There have been noticeable changes to base operations and we do our best to look out for our own safety.
We also hope to be able to return to the Egyptian Hospital this weekend for the first time in three weeks. Many of you have sent such amazing donations for the kids and I cannot wait to visit again and start distributing the supplies. On a brighter note, we celebrated Mother’s Day by taking advantage of free calling that was provided by Morale, Wellness and Recreation (MWR). My sister happened to graduate from her Master’s program on Mother’s Day so it was nice to be able to speak to the family all at once.
Staying busy is certainly no challenge, but we are now twice as motivated to arrange morale events for the servicemember’s since life here has gotten more difficult. Armed Forces Day is on Saturday May 21 and we have submitted a food service request for support from the dining facility to have a BBQ for the soldiers. We have also requested that the Combat Stress Dog, Sgt Timmy, make an appearance. I actually got to play with Timmy today when I went to extend the invitation and that was a pleasant distraction. Meantime, life goes on and we still visit the patients at the Joint Theater Hospital, support the Medivacs, brief incoming units of red cross messages and deliver over 300 messages a week.
Keep thinking of us out here. Even though Bin Laden is gone, the danger out here is anything but.
Saturday, 7 May 2011
Friday, 6 May 2011
Wednesday, 4 May 2011
These are the events that happened to me on Tuesday Evening 3 May 2011:
At approximately 8:45pm I was on the phone in the office delivering a case, when I suddenly felt two successive tremendously powerful booms that landed to the left of my office which shook its foundations. It took me about 2 seconds to realize that this was the real deal and I needed to get to a bunker immediately. I quickly told the solider on the phone I had to go. I set down the phone and ran out the back door to the office as I saw the two other soldiers who had been watching TV in the office bolt out the front door. As I stepped out onto the deck, the sirens went off. They sound like air raid sirens punctuated by the announcement “IDF Impact, IDF Impact, Shelter in Place, Shelter in Place, Don IBA, Don IBA.” As the ominous warning sounds over and over I can hear booms hitting around me through the drone of the siren. As my mind attempted to process which was the safest bunker in relation to where I could hear the booms, I saw soldiers with guns and body armor sprinting in every direction.
I finally ran as fast as I could to the bunker behind our office in the courtyard. Inside there were probably about 20 people already and due to the location of this bunker it continued to fill and fill until a soldier yelled for every second person to take a step forward so that we could fit more people in. This same soldier was yelling for soldiers with guns to remain at the two entrances of the bunker for protection. I found myself squashed into the center of the bunker with a woman suffering a head wound leaning into me. I still have the blood on my uniform. She had hit her head running into the bunker and blood was running from the wound down her face. Because of my position I ended up being the one to provide whatever basic care for her I could. People handed me some tissues and I called for a bottle of water and I did what I could for her in the circumstances.
The sirens stopped wailing after about 10 minutes and the air became eerily quiet. Because soldiers needed to report in for accountability people became brave enough to start sprinting to other buildings and bunkers. Our office was only about a 10 second sprint so I ducked and charged back, ran in and got on the phone to another Red Cross office to tell them to watch our emergency message queue because we were taking incoming. Then I ran back to the bunker and settled down to wait. The sirens sounded again and continued going off successively for another 20-30 min. I didn’t know where my team was but I could only hope that given all the noise they had all made it into a bunker.
Once the “All Clear” siren sounded, I went back to the office and waited for my team members to report in as was designated in our emergency action plan. Everyone was safe and had made it to a bunker. We did a short debrief and listened to each other recount their experiences. And then, typical to a deployment setting, everyone departed and I went back to delivering cases.
That was yesteday. Today is Wednesday 4 May 2011 and I’ve already been back in that same bunker once today.
Monday, 2 May 2011
The best way to sum up this historic day from
I had hoped that I would be able to learn more from the Armed Forces Network (AFN) which supplies our TV news coverage over here, but I was dismayed to see that a bunch of servicemembers had already commandeered the TV and were watching a DVD. So I started my shift not really knowing what was going on in response to the news. My team leader and I agreed that when the movie was over we would turn on the news. This did not happen however, as 5 minutes into the start of my shift, we went into a rolling blackout that lasted an hour. In consisted of 10 minutes blackout, followed by 5 minutes of everything reloading, followed by another series of beeps and pops and everything would go dark again. These blackouts have continued throughout the day.
I can tell you one thing I have observed. I would not describe the mood out here as one of relief or celebration. In fact, in my opinion and in my experience, I would describe it as somber accompanied by heightened caution. As many of you are likely aware, both the Taliban and NATO released news statements just a few days ago acknowledging the start of a new offensive by the Taliban. On Friday morning, Billeting went round our camp and checked the smoke detectors in the Bhuts. On Saturday I did my daily hospital visit and there were so many people in the Ward, they were doubling up beds in the curtained off partitions. Running errands on the base today there were numerous changes evident from just the day before.
The death of Osama Bin Laden is undoubtedly a significant event. But in my own opinion, the news does not resonate the same way for the Americans and Allied forces in
Sunday, 1 May 2011
Amidst growing “excitement” in Afghanistan, we managed to have an enjoyable and uneventful Sunday afternoon. Our team leader’s mother-in-law shipped over Bisquick, cherry pie filling and a recipe for how to grill shortcake on our outdoor grill. Despite the 100 degree heat we gathered round the grill to cook shortcake and roast leftover Peeps (which seemed kind of cruel as their faces melted) and relax a bit in the calm. The day was also a success in that earlier in the morning, while I was still sleeping, our team and some volunteers set up two bookshelves, one at the Pax Terminal, one at the Green Bean Coffee, for a project we started to help give away more of our donated books. We are going to stock the bookshelves at each location weekly and hope that in this way, more people will be encouraged to take and/or leave a book!
Thursday, 28 April 2011
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
So less than an hour left on my shift tonight, with the crackles from an electrical storm hanging over the mountains, I hear a voice weakly calling “hello? Hello?” into the office from our back door. I get up and make a move to the door as it swings open and in shuffles a soldier with blood dripping from his hand. He is sweating bullets and tells me he needs to sit down because he's so dizzy. So I pull out the chair at our second desk and run to get him some water as he drops his head to the desk. I ask him if he thinks he’s really going to faint and he says the water is helping. I ask him what happened and he said he was putting his helmet together and a screw went through his finger. I ask him if I can see his finger to assess if I need to take him to a hospital. He’s says he doesn’t think he can look at it so I tell him to close his eyes and just hold his hand out so I can see it. Gently I removed the paper towels he used and while I could see it was a good sized rip, it was obvious he wasn’t going to bleed to death on my floor. I told him to keep drinking the water and keep breathing deeply. I went over to see if we had anything better to use for bandages and I kept him talking to me the whole time. As he was telling me about what had happened it dawned on me that I probably should take him to the hospital for evaluation since he told me that it was a jagged rusty screw with WD 40 on it that went into his thumb. Sounds like maybe a tetanus shot to me! I was also worried about how woozy and sweaty he was so, better be safe than sorry. I quickly called another red cross station to cover our emergency message queue since I was the only one in the office, and together we walked to the car through this crazy lightening storm with the purple sky flashing like a strobe light every few seconds.
When we arrived at the hospital I took him in the emergency entrance since he had never been there before. Once we found a nurse, I made a move to head back to the office and as I turned to go he says “Hey wait… I don’t know how to get back!” Poor guy, apparently he was a transient trying to get to an outlying FOB and didn’t know the base. So I asked the nurse if he would have access to a DSN phone and she said yes, so I handed over our business card and said “I’m up all night, just call if you need a ride!” Once back at the office, I was just up and running again when an NCO from the soldier's unit came in and said, “I heard you took one of my guys to the hospital!?” I confirmed this and he said he would head over now to stay with him and bring him back. So I guess the whole thing worked out, but a bloody guy stumbling in in a electrical storm? Always something out here...
Tuesday, 26 April 2011
Quite the start to the day over here in Afghanistan, picture this… 15 min into my shift. I have just accepted an emergency message to work on and deliver, Ingrid is on the phone with someone who is trying to start a message on their uncle (which we do not do except with extraordinary circumstances) and one of our volunteers is in the office sorting through the at least dozen packages of abandoned mail that we picked up from the post office yesterday. As you may recall we have been accepting the abandoned care packages from the post office and shipping them out to the Forward bases, many of which do not even have a base exchange (any kind of store). Then iIn walks a contractor from Flour, agitated and in a hurry saying he needs to know exactly where to put our new books shelves… err bookshelves? Since Ingrid is on the phone I leave the case and go outside to realize that he is trying to deliver two 3x5 and 5x5 bookshelves for a joint project with the Green Bean coffee and the Pax Terminal to our tiny office instead of their respective locations at the Green Bean and Pax Terminal. Since I am not the lead on the project I couldn’t tell him where they needed to be taken at the other locations, but he is insistent that he is dropping them off here. As the situation escalates I go back inside and ask Ingrid if she can deal with the bookshelves and I will take over her call. So pandemonium ensues and she tries to figure out the shelves while I try and convince the person on the phone that we cannot pass this message for a non-immediate family member. Amidst all this, the volunteer is quietly trying to attract our attention. Since I’m preoccupied on the phone she finally manages to snag Ingrid from the book shelf debacle (which the guys are preceeding to unload onto our back porch…and mind you three men are struggling to move them).
The volunteer motions to Ingrid what she’s found in the box and suddenly a new sense of urgency settles over the room. Ingrid picks up the other office line, looks at me and asks, “Are you almost done there? Once I make this call we are going to have to evacuate right away.” Errrrr WHAT?! I distractedly manage to finish the call, peer over the desk and into the box…inside is a pale army green ammo box with the word “Pressure Release Valve – Do Not Open”. The thing could not have looked more dangerous if it had the words “bomb” written on it. I quickly started gathering my things from the office as Ingrid called the MPs and they told us to evacuate. We called the Baghdad station to cover our messages and then we proceeded to assemble our team and alert others out and about in the camp that they needed to evacuate.
Fortunately, we did not have to wait as long as we did with our other evacuation before the verdict came back…the box contained radios. Delightful! So after an hour’s fun, it was back to the office to set up shop again (and I suspect that will be the end of our accepting the abandoned mail!) and then Terra and I left to run some errands for the day. We went to the PX and picked up our pressed uniforms, some charcoal for a small BBQ we want to have, did some window shopping at the jewelry store and then headed to the post office to pick up the day’s mail. Once we arrived we realized that the shopping cart we had ordered to carry items around the hospital had arrived so we had to haul that mamma jahamba to the truck. Easily the best part of the day was the care package from my boyfriend that survived it’s multi-ocean trip from Scotland to the U.S. then back across the ocean and through the Middle East to Afghanistan. And still the Cadbury eggs made it! Because the APO label on my mailing address is technically a US address all my mail, no matter where it comes from in the world will go to the U.S. first before coming to me, hence the multi-trans Atlantic crossing.
Knock on wood things are quiet at the office now (and relatively uneventful – apart from the fact that I went to smell the new conditioner I bought at the PX…and ended up squirting it up my nose :-)
All in a day’s work I guess?!
Sunday, 24 April 2011
It is Easter Sunday!
We stayed about a half an hour before heading back to our festive office. We had been stocking up on Easter candy and spring decorations to make it look like the Easter bunny came over night and given the combat environment, I think we did pretty good! Since then I confess I have looked at the Country Living magazine mom sent me about 10 times today because it’s full of all these gorgeous green photos of plants and grass and professional dyed Easter eggs and it reminds me of Easters back home in the States.
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Today I met our new volunteer at the hospital so that he could shadow me on a hospital visit. We had met a few weeks prior, both of us volunteering on a Medivac. After hearing about the work we did, he was very interested in helping out at the hospital as well. Today was a quiet day at the ward with only two patients who were asleep. There was far more activity in the ICU, where two of the three patients had been hit by an IED and were both missing their legs. We spoke briefly with the third solider who had a gunshot wound, but mostly today we chatted with the staff and did our best to provide them with an outlet to discuss their work, which really does take its toll.
After the hospital I picked up Ingrid and together we went to pick up the post which we had been tipped off the day before was going to be excessive…and that wasn’t a lie! There were at least a dozen boxes for the office and the team members (Mom sent more fudge and Easter candy whose weight in my stomach is keeping me trapped at my desk). The highlight of the mail today was easily the abandoned mail. We open the abandoned care packages that we receive from the post office to ensure that we are not shipping forward something inappropriate… like bottles of beer! Alcohol is against General Order #1 in theater and grounds for some serious repercussions. Because it was abandoned mail the Red Cross was completely innocent in the whole ordeal but the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of the post office had to come over and document and take pictures. And the best part…? It had been shipped by a police department back in the States! The irony of the whole thing was pretty hilarious, and we managed to ship forward 5 care packages to outlying FOBs which was great.
Tuesday, 19 April 2011
The last few days have made for some fun at the Red Cross! On Sunday we hosted a Pizza Party for the ICW staff at the hospital. The Intensive Care Ward is the area where patients who are not critical enough to warrant a bed in the ICU but still require round the clock care, stay during their time at the Joint Command Theater Hospital. We work quite closely with the staff at the Ward, because these are the patients that we primarily visit at the hospital, typically conscious but unfortunately stuck in bed, often times with debilitating, sometimes life changing injuries. The members of this staff work so hard on the medical care of these soldiers, but also find themselves in the difficult position as the people the wounded turn to for moral support. That is part of our goal in visiting the patients is to provide a bit of relief for the hospital staff.
Yesterday also proved to be an exciting day at the Hospital as I was invited to watch a Purple Heart Ceremony. I happened to be in the right place at the right time as I ran into the military press representative who asked me if I’d like to watch. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the ceremony was not exactly what I had imagined. It was very informal and took place in one of the hospital hallways, but at the same time, because the General was presiding, all the military personell were at their most formal. It also wasn’t quite as I pictured because the two soldiers who received the award were obviously still suffering from their wounds, but they were doing their best to be as professional as possible for their ceremony and their General. Mostly though, I really had to actively stop myself from crying ( I was the only woman there and I would have shot myself if I’d actually lost it) but I couldn’t believe how emotional I found the whole experience. I couldn’t help but find the ceremony representative of all the soldiers I had seen and met since the start of the deployment who had lost their arms or their legs or their hands or their hearing, and I found myself wanting to cry for them and for the two who were being honored that day.
Saturday, 16 April 2011
Friday, 15 April 2011
When I came into work this morning I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I had been tasked to make dozens of Easter goodie bags for the troops from donations that we received. This cheery and somewhat mindless activity was definitely needed after the night we had last night at the Red Cross.
Many people do not know this, but in addition to passing Red Cross messages on behalf of families amidst an emergency, the Red Cross actually acts somewhat like a 911 emergency call to prevent suicides. Technically we refer to these “messages” as SPAs - Suicide Prevention Action. Essentially, if a deployed servicemember is communicating with family back home and expressing suicidal ideations, the family can call the Red Cross and initiate a chain of events to intervene and protect the servicemember. Our Red Cross station in Bagram will get a direct phone call from a station in the States briefly explaining the situation as well as the soldier’s personal information so that we can accurately identify both the military command and the servicemember. Once the correct command is located, we call and ask to speak to the highest ranking officer in the unit, whereby we explain the situation and ask that command locate and secure the servicemember, hopefully before any harm comes to pass.
Last night was just such a night here at the Red Cross, although circumstances were made even more precarious due to the fact that the entire computerized message system was inoperative at many stations around the world, including all the deployed stations. We had not had access to the system for two hours when we got a call from National Headquarters advising they had a SPA for us. Fortunately I was still in the office after my shift because my co-worker took the phone call from National and stayed on the phone with them to receive the information while I called the unit and spoke to the only night solider in the office who had never handled a suicide prevention action before. I talked him through what he needed to do while National was relaying the information to Kami who was relaying it to me while I was relaying it to the command all in an effort to ensure that this servicemember was located, secured and given help.
The worst part about SPAs however is the waiting…after we’d passed the information to command they act immediately on their end to get in contact with the servicemember’s actual unit and then to the servicemember himself. This leaves us at the Red Cross office on edge waiting for a call back to hear if we made it in time. I waited another two hours at the office to hear back from command, but by 3am they still could not give us any information and I was exhausted.
Although suicide prevention action is nowhere near as common as the regular emergency message we pass, every now and again a SPA comes through that jolts you into a actual life or death situation where your actions maybe save someone's life and provide them the help they need.