Face of Defense: Twice-Wounded Soldier Returns to Duty
By Pfc. Daniel M. Rangel, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Nov. 28, 2007 A soldier serving her third combat deployment returned to Afghanistan on Nov. 12 after receiving medical treatment in Germany for injuries suffered in her second improvised-explosive-device detonation.
Army Spc. Cassandra L. Miles, a native of New Brunswick, N.J., volunteered to return after suffering a mild concussion and possible brain injury in an Oct. 28 IED attack. She survived another IED attack earlier this year, when she suffered headaches and burns.
While Miles was serving as a medic attached to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, an IED exploded near her Humvee door during a patrol in Logar province. Feeling the need to care for her unit, she asked to be returned to the aid station and medical platoon at Forward Operating Base Shank to resume her duties as soon as possible.
“A lot of people don’t understand that we’re very shorthanded as it is, and my section is more of a family than anything,” Miles said. “Unless I had to definitely go home and I had no choice, then I was going to go back.”
Miles said she has counted her blessings and is grateful to be feeling well again.
“I feel like I’m blessed,” Miles said. “I’m alive with my limbs and my legs, and I shouldn’t be because of where the impact was. I shouldn’t even be here, but I’m still capable of doing what I’ve got to do -- treat patients.”
Miles is part of a medical platoon in which more than half of the medics are women who patrol with infantry paratroopers on a daily basis.
“It’s a hard job for a woman to prove herself to an infantry platoon that she can do the same thing a male can do and that she can carry it out on a constant basis,” Miles said.
Miles credits her platoon leader, Army 2nd Lt. Adam Davies of Houston, for a positive work environment despite the harsh conditions.
“He really sticks his neck out there for us and takes care of us,” Miles said. “He fights our battles that we can’t fight without having the rank.”
Army Pfc. Megan Anstiss, a medic from Eau Claire, Mich., another member of the medical platoon assigned to a maneuver element, agrees with Miles.
“It’s sort of like a family,” Anstiss said. “We’re all very close. We all look out for each other, and we argue and all that good stuff too sometimes, but it’s a good place to work.”
Both soldiers have been able to prove themselves to their male comrades.
“You have to do what they do,” Anstiss said. “When they get out of the truck; you get out of the truck. When something breaks, you help fix it. You’re there when you’re supposed to be. Don’t do the girly stuff. If you act like a soldier, they’ll treat you like a soldier.”
Male or female, Army medics do a tough and dangerous job on a daily basis out of FOB Shank.
“If anyone gets hurt, we get out of the kill zone and treat the patient,” Anstiss said. “If it becomes a situation where there are not enough personnel to return fire or nobody’s hurt, then we would return fire.”
Miles detailed one of the toughest fire fights she’s endured.
“It was scary,” Miles said. She was taking care of a patient who was injured by a rocket-propelled grenade in the undercarriage of his seat in a Humvee, she recalled. “When it blew up, he had shrapnel on his lower back all the way down to his upper knees,” the medic said. “I was trying to take care of him all the way back, but we kept continuously getting hit for about 10 kilometers.”
The last IED attack Miles suffered put her in and out of consciousness. She was evacuated to Bagram Air Base and sent to Germany for further treatment.
Davies said Miles was sent to Bagram to check for possible minor traumatic brain injury. “That’s something that we’re seeing a lot of,” he said. “The Army had just come up with a plan that everybody in the entire Army had to have MTBI and (post-traumatic stress disorder) training, and we gave that training.” During the same month that his unit was conducting the training, Davies said, half of the 26 casualties evacuated had some form of minor traumatic brain injury.
Throughout Afghanistan, Army medics are enduring similar hardships, but Miles’ attitude is common.
“I’m just doing my job,” Miles said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the number of males needed or required … and I couldn’t leave my guys, so I asked the doctor if I could return back to country.”
(Army Pfc. Daniel M. Rangel is assigned to the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)