Face of Defense: Soldiers’ Quick Actions Save Iraqi Life
By Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq, Jan. 15, 2008 U.S. soldiers’ quick thinking and care helped save the life of an Iraqi man in Arab Jabour, Jan. 7.
Army Spc. Edward Graves, a medic with 153rd Military Police Company, Delaware National Guard, works to stabilize Mohammed Ali Abas on Jan. 7, 2008, in Arab Jabour, Iraq. Abas was injured by an improvised explosive device and lost his foot. He underwent surgery at 86th Combat Support Hospital, in Baghdad. Photo by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Soldiers of 153rd Military Police Company, Delaware National Guard, were on a mission to survey the site for a future police station with engineers from a construction company.
Arriving at the site, the convoy’s lead vehicle began making a U-turn when a white pickup truck came speeding toward them. The gunner sounded the siren on the Humvee to stop the vehicle. The pickup driver stopped the truck, got out and began frantically waving his arms.
Army Staff Sgt. Bruce Ashby, the lead truck commander, did not understand the Iraqi’s cries but knew something was wrong by his facial expressions.
“He had this frantic look on his face, was motioning his arms to indicate an explosion,” said Ashby, a native of Smyrna, Del.
Ashby got out of the Humvee and approached the truck with a second soldier.
The man, still motioning, pointed to his leg and then to the back of the truck. In the back of the truck, surrounded by two other men offering comfort, was a man, grunting and shaking in pain. The man, a stocky, mustached, middle-aged Arab Jabour resident, was splattered in blood on his left side. His clothes were torn by shrapnel, and his left leg, dangling off the back of the truck, was missing below the calf and dripping blood.
Ashby, a New Castle County, Del., police officer, is trained as a first responder, but this was the first amputation he had encountered, he said. “When you come across a situation like that, you don’t have time to think. You just react,” Ashby said.
He quickly applied a tourniquet band on the injured man and directed the other soldier to get a medic and a stretcher.
Army Spc. Edward Graves arrived on the scene quickly. As a combat medic, former firefighter and a code enforcement officer in Dover, Del., Graves is experienced in treating casualties. Even with his experience, the Harly, Del., native knew at first glance his skills were not enough. “We had to get him up the medical chain,” Graves said.
The decision was made to evacuate the man, Mohammed Ali Abas, to the nearest trauma center at Patrol Base Murray, manned by soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
As the vehicles prepared to escort the Iraqis to the patrol base, Graves continued to check the wounded man’s airway and to stop major bleeding. Abas’ left arm was severely cut above the elbow, requiring another tourniquet band.
“Your training just comes back to you, especially your military training,” Graves said, explaining his focus despite the wails of Abas’ brother and friend in the back of the truck. “It kind of becomes second nature; you mentally get rid of (the distractions).”
At the patrol base, medics were alerted to the incoming casualty and met the soldiers as they arrived with the victim. Seconds after pulling in to the trauma center, the medics rushed Abas to the battalion care center. Once inside, the medics began to monitor Abas’ vital signs, started an intravenous line and cut off his clothes to better assess the wounds.
Outside the clinic, Abas’ brother, Ehsan, sat by the door, crying for his brother, with two friends by his side. Army Lt. Col Ken Adgie, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment commander, joined the group to add his own words of comfort and to determine what exactly had happened.
“Your brother is going to be OK,” he said, assuring Ehsan the medics were skilled and would do everything possible for him.
Army Lt. Col. (Dr.) Hee-Choon S. Lee, 1st-30th Infantry Regiment battalion surgeon, dressed Abas’ amputation and wounds. Lee said he was concerned with Abas’ low blood oxygen level. The percent of oxygen saturation in his blood was hovering around 80 percent; normally, the number is between 99 to 100 percent.
Lee also was worried about a possible brain injury.
“He was not talking to us, not responsive, but moaning with pain,” Lee said. “That tells me he may have had a brain concussion.”
Assessing the case as very urgent, Lee decided to transfer Abas to the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad.
As the doctors worked inside, Adgie went to work ascertaining the day’s events. Through a translator, Adgie learned that Abas had struck an improvised explosive device around his house, about 200 meters away from a school. An explosives ordnance disposal team determined the IED was made of four 57 mm mortars.
The morning of Jan. 8, Abas was in stable condition after surgery at the 86th CSH, recovering in the intensive care unit, said 1st Lt. Kristina Moffett, ICU charge officer.
“We probably saved a life,” said 1st Lt. Daniel DeFlaviis, a Delaware state trooper and member of 153rd Military Police Company.
(Army Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky serves with the Public Affairs Office of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team.)