Psychiatrists in Combat: From the Deckplates to Division
Kevin D. Moore
As the First Marine Division (1st MARDIV) approached Baghdad, Iraq, I was assigned to the Reportable Incident Assessment Team (RIAT). This team, prototyped by 1st MARDIV Commanding General (CG), General Mattis, could be task organized to investigate any alleged or potential incidents that may be perceived as a war crime. We had been asked to investigate a reported Red Crescent ambulance that had been shot by US forces. Membership for this assignment included Division Staff representatives from Civil Affairs, Staff Judge Advocate (SJA), and Surgeon.
We entered the city far ahead of the main command headquarters. The scene was complete chaos. Dead, injured, damaged buildings, along with looting and lines of people trying to evacuate were everywhere. There was no means of communication between the two unarmored Humvees transporting us. Armed with several M9 pistols, a few M16s, and a couple of shotguns that had been acquired en route, we used maps to find grid locations. Navigation was not easy, because GPS devices were in limited supply.
Unable to find the location during the day and becoming too dangerous to remain outside unprotected, we pulled into the United Nations compound as night fell. When I sat down to an MRE, I suddenly noticed lights above me. I quickly realized these were actually tracer rounds from incoming gunfire and immediately took cover. A group of Marines came to inform me that someone was down. They needed “the Doc.”
I arrived on scene with two Corpsmen beside me. A Marine had been shot. The Corpsmen had done the initial assessment and stopped the bleeding, but the patient needed medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). When the firefight stopped, the patient was sent in a Humvee for pick up by helicopter, but his MEDEVAC flight never arrived. The Marine looked at me when he got back to the compound and said, “Doc, please don’t send me out there again. They will kill me this time.” We kept
K.D. Moore, M.D. (*)
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E.C. Ritchie et al. (eds.), Psychiatrists in Combat,
him until daybreak for MEDEVAC, and the team left the compound to continue our search of the ambulance. Our actions later qualified for the Combat Action Ribbon (CAR).
The Reportable Incident Assessment Team was eventually able to locate the Iraqi vehicle that had been shot. It was not an ambulance after all. While being guarded by armed security, I entered the disabled vehicle to examine the three dead men that had been shot. A review of video footage revealed that they had run up behind an armed convoy and refused to back off. The shooting appeared justified, but it was still a sad, tragic reminder of the victims of war.