After the Smoke Cleared

The VBIED detonation on August 7, 2012 impacted a majority of the 173d ABCT Brigade Support Battalion assets on FOB Shank, although I believe none more than the medical company. It was no small accomplishment for the leadership and the unit to overcome the obvious challenge of continuing to provide medical treatment for an entire region with medical staff who themselves were causalities. The days and weeks that followed VBIED detonation continued to present many challenges to FOB security and medical care delivery. In the end, 173d ABCT was able to thwart terrorist plans to overthrow FOB Shank and medical care continued with minimal interruptions.

Though this attack on FOB Shank was only one of many kinetic events during my deployment to Afghanistan, it is the day that I’m most asked about and the one I’m least willing to discuss openly for three primary reasons: (1) my memory of the events of that day and the sequelae of events that followed over the next several weeks are disjointed at best, (2) I am apparently an excellent compartmentalizer and sometimes hesitant to abandon this coping strategy, and (3) being involved in a blast event while deployed is, unfortunately, not a unique experience. More important than this specific event was the courageous and effective response of the 173d ABCT in dealing with it. As a unit, they chose to view this event as one more challenge that needed to be overcome in order to successfully complete their mission— they chose to move forward.

The months preceding and after the blast, were filled with significant actions that reflected the courageous perseverance of Service Members, civilian contractors, and Afghan interpreters. Together, their actions facilitated continued combat, support, and intelligence operations by enabling continuous care and evacuation of wounded Service Members across our area of operations. They accomplished their mission in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and their selfless- sacrifice is a reflection of the larger purpose they serve.

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