Lisa s Diary 2014 Captain Lisa Irwin Captain Lisa Irwin is a REME Reserve Officer currently on a three-year Full Time Reserve Service commitment with the Defence Cultural Specialist Unit. She has spent 15 months learning Pashto and Dhari before deploying to Camp Bastion to be the 2 IC of a team of medical personnel set up to mentor Afghan medical personnel. This is her third tour of Afghanistan and her second blog, as she blogged during her last tour in 2010/2011, when she was deployed as a Female Engagement Team Commander.
Day 14: 26 Jan Work has been gathering pace as I completed hand over and was handed my issue mobile. Friday is the Muslim religious day so we don t go over to Shorabak for routine training and utilise the time to do team admin and training. However, this Friday our plans went awry as an ANSF casualty was brought in that we felt was suitable for transfer to Shorabak- he had a gunshot wound to an arm and a resultant fracture.
I then had to kick in to action and phone all the relevant cogs in the wheel to ensure transfer of the casualty from our ambulance, to an ANSF ambulance and then to Shorabak; at the same time I had to notify the team members that were required and ensure we were ready to go. By the time we got over to Shorabak the casualty was already in the operating theatre and the Afghan team were ready to go, so the guys from my team went in to mentor them through the surgery. The surgery turned out to be slightly more complex than first thought and took several hours but we managed to assist the ANSF surgeons in stabilising the casualty.
Unfortunately he had suffered major damage to a blood vessel and so had to be returned to Bastion for more complex surgery, but the ANA surgical team did their part very well and it was felt that it was a useful mentoring opportunity. Whilst that operation was ongoing another casualty was brought in by their evacuation chain and went in for surgery immediately after the other came out. On that occasion the ANA surgical team were seen to be more than capable of coping so we left them to it and returned to Bastion.
Whilst the ANA may not have the resources that we have I am most impressed with their ability to overcome such issues and work hard to save their fellow warriors. Due to my role in theatre, and the fact that I am female and a reservist, the combat camera team came to talk to me yesterday with a view to me being involved in some kind of documentary/media piece. I was more than happy to take part but had to have several photos taken and wasn t particularly comfortable with that- I hope they got my best side!
Day 25: 6 Feb What is going on with the weather out here? The days were getting sunnier, the nights starting to get shorter and the temperature was getting warmer so I was looking forward to not so cold nights and warm sunny days. How wrong could I have been?
Helmand has had its first snow in 12 years and it is absolutely freezing! I must admit Camp Bastion covered in snow is a sight I never thought I would see. I wish it would go now though as getting out of a lukewarm shower into a cold ablutions tent is not a pleasant experience!
I went back to Shorabak for the first time in a few days today (security meant it wasn t possible for a few days) and it was good to get back. The staff in the Treatment Centre all remembered me and many came up to me saying Leila (my Afghan name) you are back! and some were hugging me in greeting.
I was very pleased by their reaction as it shows how accepting they have become of me. A hug in greeting from an Afghan is not at all unusual once they know you and count you as a friend or good acquaintance. However, they are often a little more reserved about giving a woman a hug which is understandable given their culture.
I am really pleased that they are happy to see me and like to talk to me as developing relationships is a key aspect of my job and doing so will give me more ability to recognise if something is wrong. If they regard us as friends then they are more likely to want to protect my team and I from the risk of harm. Working with the ANSF in their camp does bring risks but good relationships with our Afghan counterparts is the best way to mitigate that risk I was also able to chat to several of the patients today, as many of them spoke Pashto, which at the moment is easier for me than Dari.
After the small talk about family, weather, where they lived/were from etc we then spoke about their injuries (one had been shot, another injured by an IED) and their continued struggle to secure their country against the Taliban. I find their resilience amazing and in some way inspiring. Afghans are incredibly resilient people who as they are quick to tell you are used to decades of war and fighting, and they are pragmatic too and just get on with things.
Those I spoke to emphasised that they are very proud of their country and want to do all they can to protect it for their friends and family. They do not agree with the Taliban s methods and motives and want, as do all Afghans that I have spoken to, to be able to live in a secure country and support their family. They aren t asking for much.
Day 26: 7 Feb I wasn t detailed to go to Shorabak today but I had some reports to catch up on and some general admin to do so I managed to stay busy enough. I also had a telephone interview to do with Army media back in UK to talk about my experiences as a reservist and my role out in theatre at the moment. It is going to be published in a newspaper supplement as part of International Women s Day (March 8th).
The combat camera team are planning to come over to Shorabak in the next week to take some photographs of me at work to accompany the article. That leaves me with the dilemma of which head scarf to wear .only joking- though I do have a selection as I have some from my last tour and I bought a new one when I got here. It is still bitterly cold here- so much so that we have had a few personnel injured by slipping on ice.
That is not an injury pattern that we normally associate with a deployment to Helmand. Perhaps in Kabul yes, as it frequently snows there in winter, but not down here (we are quite a long way South of Kabul). Most days are cloudy too so the sun isn t managing to get through and lift the temperature.
Having done two previous winter tours though, I do know that once the sun does start to come out it usually warms up pretty quickly and in a few weeks we will be starting to complain about the heat! I have never done a summer tour though so I am not sure how I will cope with the intense heat in July/August. Ah well, I will have no choice but to get on with it!
Day 30: 11 Feb The past few days have been frustrating for me and my team. Unfortunately the threat state was raised so mentoring was put on hold. That meant we had a couple of days free; although in reality few of us were stood idle as the nurses and doctors in the team offered themselves to the hospital as extra hands/advisors, and myself and my OC caught up on essential admin.
I too offered my nursing skills to the ward as two children are being treated there at present. They were happy for my help, especially as I could speak to the children in their own language. Seeing the injuries that some children sustain out here is very difficult- those particular children had been seriously injured by an IED whilst out playing and I find the indiscriminate nature of IEDs really hard.
There has been so much suffering caused to innocent people who just want to be able to live a secure life. I have also managed to organise some extra language training for me at the Education Centre here in Bastion with an Afghan tutor. It is an asset I need to make the most of as there will be no such facility in a few months time when the draw down properly kicks in.
I have started my fitness campaign proper too, I am determined to regain a good level of fitness and in the back of my mind is that I will be wearing a wedding dress in October ( my fianc and I have finally arranged the date!) and I want to look as good as I can! Today the restriction on us going over was lifted and so we were able to send three quarters of the team over. I remained behind as it was felt prudent not to send too many people until we had assessed the atmospherics over there.
I ended up being quite busy as we had several ANSF casualties brought in to the hospital by helicopter this morning, not long after my team had left for Shorabak. Before they arrived the reports indicated that some were seriously injured and one not as badly (most due to an IED, one had been shot). I gave the Liaison officer who organises the transportation of the casualties from Bastion to Shorabak a call to give him a heads up and called my team who were over there working to let them know.
I then remained in the Emergency Department as the casualties were all brought in and assessed, in order to determine if they were potential cases for transfer to Shorabak. Not being experienced in trauma care (thankfully it is pretty rare in paediatric nursing in UK and blast injuries are pretty rare in the UK full stop) I found it fascinating and also a real eye opener. There were lots of people involved in caring for each casualty and their knowledge and experience was evident as each team dealt with their allocated casualty.
I have been told that the Role 3 Hospital in Camp Bastion is the best trauma centre in the world and watching the guys at work I could see why. As it turned out the hospital director assessed them as requiring the specialist care that the Role 3 hospital in Bastion can give them due to the severity of their injuries, so everyone in the ANSF Med Dev team was stood down. I had a lovely, and interesting, evening tonight as I have been invited several times to take tea (chai- green tea) with the hospital interpreters and I managed to make the time tonight.
They were really pleased to see me and we sat down and talked about family, jobs, poetry (considered very important in Afghan culture) and life in general. Nearly all the conversation was in Pashto, with the occasional help for me when I couldn t remember how to say something or understand what someone had said to me. I was really pleased that I was able to talk with them for over an hour on a number of subjects.
All that work at the language school is finally paying off! They have invited me any time and I intend to join them as often as I can- but I shall try to get my family to send some Scottish food that I can take with me to thank them for their hospitality. Day 39: 20 Feb The past week (well just over a week) has been pretty busy so I haven t had much time to myself.
The weather is warming up and that historically has tended to mean more operations on the ground being carried out. It certainly seems to be the case now as there have been numerous ANSF casualties coming in to Camp Bastion and direct to Camp Shorabak and as a result my services have been required several times to co-ordinate patient transfer. Sometimes I have been involved in sending casualties from Bastion to Shorabak and at other times casualties have come in to Bastion whilst I have been with the team working at Shorabak, and I have co-ordinated them being received in to Shorabak Emergency Department.
Not all casualties that have been sent to Shorabak have required mentor input as some had injuries that the Afghan doctors are more than capable of dealing with on their own; whilst others required a little guidance from us initially and we were then able to let the Afghans deal with the situation themselves. For 4 days in the past week I was in charge of the mentor team as my OC had taken a small number of the team up to Kabul to recce the Kabul Military Hospital. We need to fully understand the capability of such a hospital so that we can understand the likely capability of the hospital currently under construction in Shorabak and therefore tailor our expectations and mentoring accordingly.
I was quite happy to be left in charge (and so I should be really!) as I am really gaining an understanding of the role, how we operate, and the numerous personalities I need to liaise with and work with. Plus I now have a good understanding of the numerous bits of paperwork and reports that go with the role. I find that I am working quite long hours (as is common for many people out here), with little or no time off, but as it is interesting and often challenging work I don t mind at all.
If casualties come in late and I am called in to the hospital I find I am rarely tired as the adrenalin kicks in and I become focussed. A casualty coming into the Emergency Department certainly sharpens the mind. I am involved in the whole process; from the initial report of an incoming ANSF casualty, to the helicopter coming in, and then the casualty being transferred by ambulance to, and assessed in, the Emergency Department, right through to the decision about treatment and onward care.
There have been times when we have faced particularly difficult challenges; in particular there have been cases where the Shorabak team have wanted to send casualties to us as they have felt the casualties required the level of care that Bastion can give. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons we have not been able to accept them. The Afghans have surprised us by then coming up with their own solution to the problem and saved the patient.
We have been very impressed by that and they have seemed very proud of themselves- justifiably so. I continue to be surprised by the resourcefulness of the Afghans and they in turn continue to be surprised by my knowledge of their language and culture, so it is an interesting relationship. I am glad that I will be working as part of the mentoring team until the new hospital opens so that I am able to see our (and their) hard work come to fruition.
Pt1: Lisa s Diary Week 1-2 1 2014 Read Lisa s previous blogs from 2010/2011: L isa s Diary 1: October-December 2010 2 Lisa s Diary 2: January-March 2011 3 This entry was posted in 102 Bn REME (V) 4 , Army 5 , REME 6 , TFH HQ 7 and tagged Bastion 8 , captain 9 , Cultural Specialist 10 , DCSU 11 , female 12 , H19/20 13 , HelmandProvince 14 , helmend 15 , Hospital 16 , linguist 17 , lisa irwin 18 , Medical 19 , medical development 20 , nurses 21 , nursing 22 , REME 23 , reservist 24 , surgeon 25 , surgery 26 , surgical 27 .
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References ^ Training Afghan Medics: The Language of Healing (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ Lisa s Diary 1: October-December 2010 (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ Lisa s Diary 2: January-March 2011 (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ View all posts in 102 Bn REME (V) (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ View all posts in Army (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ View all posts in REME (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ View all posts in TFH HQ (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ Bastion (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ captain (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ Cultural Specialist (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ DCSU (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ female (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ H19/20 (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ HelmandProvince (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ helmend (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ Hospital (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ linguist (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ lisa irwin (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ Medical (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ medical development (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ nurses (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ nursing (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ REME (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ reservist (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ surgeon (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ surgery (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ surgical (britisharmy.wordpress.com) ^ Permalink to Training Afghan Medics: The Language of Healing Pt2 (britisharmy.wordpress.com)
Israeli forces in the eastern occupied Jerusalem village of al-Eizariya 1 were caught on video on Friday posing for trophy photos as they held a wounded, handcuffed Palestinian child in a stranglehold. The disturbing video, shot by Rami Alarya was published by the Independent Media Center (IMC) 2 , however that publication s website, which regularly documents Israeli abuses in the village 3 , appeared to be down. The images in this post are screenshots from Alarya s video.
The International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) which translated IMC s report provided this description and analysis 4 : The soldiers assaulted the child during clashes that took place in the al-Eizariya town, east of occupied East Jerusalem. One of the soldiers tried to push the cameraman, Alarya, and his colleague, Amin Alawya, away from the scene, and was yelling at them, Enough, enough . go away what do you want Medical sources said the soldiers shot the child, Yassin al-Karaki, 13 years of age, with a rubber-coated metal bullet which hit the 13-year old in the leg.
After he fell, the soldiers began assaulting and abusing him. The attack took place after soldiers, who hid in a building near the Annexation Wall in the Qabsa area, ambushed a group of children, and one of the soldiers opened fire on the children. Several soldiers then attacked and assaulted the wounded child before kidnapping him.
The soldiers took pictures of themselves with the wounded child, and one soldier picked up a Molotov cocktail from the ground, while the child shouted in Hebrew, it s not mine, it s not mine , and a soldier responded, it s yours, it s Ok it s yours . One of the soldiers was holding him in a chokehold, and was mocking the child by imitating wrestling moves while other soldiers took pictures, although the child was barely able to breathe. The soldiers then placed the child in their jeep, while one of them was still filming the incident.
In his book Goliath 5 , The Electronic Intifada contributor Max Blumenthal 6 writes that such so-called trophy photos have a long tradition in many military forces, including Israel s. Blumenthal recalls a series of such photographs released several years ago by Breaking the Silence 7 , an Israeli group which documents testimonies of Israeli soldiers while protecting their identities: Among the disturbing shots culled from Facebook pages belonging to young Israelis was a photo of four smiling troops towering over a blindfolded preadolescent Palestinian girl kneeling at the point of their machine guns; a pretty female soldier smiling winsomely beside a blindfolded Palestinian man cuffed to a plastic chair; two soldiers posing triumphantly above a disheveled corpse lying in the street like a piece of discarded trash; a soldier pumping his rifle in the air directly behind an older Palestinian woman tending to pots on her kitchen stove; a soldier defacing the walls of a home in Gaza by spray-painting a star of David and the phrase, Be Right Back ; troops in the Gaza Strip playing with and posing beside corpses stripped half nude in acts of post-mortem humiliation; a young soldier mockingly applying makeup from a Pal- estinian woman s dresser. The Facebook pages were so replete with documents of humiliation, domination, and violence it seemed that army basic training had been led by Marquis de Sade.
Blumenthal sees these images as documents of a colonial culture in which Jewish Israeli youth became conditioned to act as sadistic overlords toward their Palestinian neighbors, and of a perpetual conquest that demanded indoctrination beginning at an early age and continuing perpetually throughout their lives.
The latest shocking images from occupied Jerusalem are proof that this ugly tradition persists.
References ^ al-Eizariya (electronicintifada.net) ^ was published by the Independent Media Center (IMC) (www.imcpal.ps) ^ which regularly documents Israeli abuses in the village (electronicintifada.net) ^ provided this description and analysis (www.imemc.org) ^ Goliath (electronicintifada.net) ^ Max Blumenthal (electronicintifada.net) ^ Breaking the Silence (electronicintifada.net)
Two Australian soldiers wounded in Afghanistan have told SBS how ‘surreal’ it was to reach their goal at the bottom of the earth. Corporal Seamus Donaghue from Brisbane and Private Heath Jamieson from Sydney completed the two-week 335-kilometre trek, along with wounded soldiers from the UK, US and Canada, as part of an international expedition accompanied by Prince Harry. Corporal Donaghue speaks to SBS’s Biwa Kwan from the South Pole. “It was a little bit surreal, I suppose.
You’ve never really been there so you’re not quite sure what to expect, so you’re walking up to something you’ve never seen. I’ve never even seen any pictures of it, to be honest”, Corporal Donaghue said. “We were just sort of soaking it in. And just actually looking at the South Pole and realising that we were down the bottom of the earth.
It was a good achievement, but at the same time I was more concentrating on the group and just really proud and privileged to be involved in such a good cause.” Prince Harry reaches South Pole 1 Initially conceived as a race to the pole, the competition was abandoned because of concerns for the welfare of participants, who were all towing 75-kilogram equipment sledges. They finished as a single group. The expedition has been organised by the British group Walking With the Wounded, with Australian partner charity Soldier On, created to care for wounded soldiers.
Soldier On chief executive John Bale said the Virgin Money South Pole Allied Challenge was an inspirational event. “These men and women not only had to battle against the cold and the distance, they also had to compete with their physical and psychological wounds,” he said in a statement. “Our wounded personnel are impressive individuals, and given the opportunity to do so, will achieve things that few others could even begin to contemplate.” Mr Bale said participants travelled to Iceland, Colorado and Norway to prepare. “Its after more than a year of preparation, months of training, a farewell with the Prime Minister in Sydney and two weeks of trekking that they have finally reached their goal,” he said.
Corporal Donague said it was importanbt to show that people recovering from injury that there is life ‘post-injury’. “That you can go out there and continue to live your life and challenge yourself even though you may have been severely injured physically or mentally.
I think that is extremely important.” “Especially with the guys who have been wounded and, I suppose, the public as well – to get them behind the cause and make sure these guys aren’t forgotten.” References ^ Prince Harry reaches South Pole (www.sbs.com.au)