Soldiers Help Afghan Girl Shot in Tribal Conflict
By Spc. Nathan W. Hutchison, USA
American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZORMAT, Afghanistan, March 14, 2008 An Afghan girl who survived a Feb. 26 tribal shoot-out that killed several members of her family is doing well today, thanks to the efforts of soldiers here.
Army Staff Sgt. Landon B. Powell, head medic, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Forward Operating Base Zormat, Afghanistan, sends a medical evacuation request for a girl who had been shot in a tribal conflict, Feb. 26, 2008. Photo by Spc. Nathan W. Hutchison, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I was sleeping, and one of the soldiers came to my door and told me there were going to be some patients coming,” recalled Army Staff Sgt. Landon B. Powell, medical noncommissioned officer in charge, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 4th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
Afghan National Police and soldiers from Troop B, 4-73rd Cavalry, were bringing a girl who had been shot in the shoulder to the base for medical attention.
“There was a tribal conflict that resulted in a certain part of the tribe attacking another family in the tribe,” said Army Capt. James E. Chapman, Troop B commander. “It resulted in the death of four of the family members and the wounding of the little girl.”
The girl and her two younger brothers survived the attack.
“The girl and her younger brothers had walked three kilometers to get to the district center, and then got here who knows how long after she had been shot,” said Army 1st Lt. Phillip J. Richards, a fire support officer from HHT. “She is definitely a very strong and courageous girl.”
Powell and other soldiers did a rapid trauma survey on the girl when she arrived here, and he was surprised when he saw the bullet wound.
“I didn’t know before she got here that she had already been seen by a civilian doctor,” said Powell, a 34-year-old Valdosta, Ga., native. “The civilian doctor, in order to take care of the wound, sewed the bullet inside.”
Powell made the decision to call for a medical evacuation to a better-equipped facility because of the potential danger involved with removing a bullet.
“In Salerno, they have X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging capabilities, so where I was unable to see where the bullet was, they could,” Powell said. “We were mainly in charge of keeping her vitals stable, because in that type of situation you can have internal bleeding and the vitals can drop.”
Soldiers talked to the girl to keep her calm while waiting for the helicopter. “I was telling her that I have a 10-year-old daughter. She kind of reminded me of her,” Powell said. “I guess I’m just kind of emotional, especially with children.”
Powell said experiences like this become personal for soldiers who are parents.
“The way things happen here, I just thought, ‘That could have been my daughter,’” he said. “I haven’t seen my daughter in so long, so it’s easy to get a little emotionally attached.” Still, he said, emotional attachment always is a second response when your job is about saving lives.
“Powell is part of a generation of medics whose career has grown under the stress of combat. He’s a competent medic,” Chapman said. “He’s learned to keep a cool head under pressure because of the training and real-life situations he has been through.”
Afghan police have arrested six people so far for the murder of the girl’s family members, and the local government is working to make the appropriate decision regarding the children’s welfare. Powell said he has visited the district center several times to check up on the girl and ensure she is doing OK with her bandages and medication.
“This is the kind of stuff that keeps me going -- being able to make a difference,” Powell said. “I enjoy helping people.”
(Army Spc. Nathan W. Hutchison serves with the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)