FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan -- Two hours earlier they were hunting him down and now they were hurrying to save his life.
Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines and Afghan Militia Forces engaged three enemy fighters on a mountainside June 13. The guerillas were tracking and reporting on the BLT's activities when coalition forces opened fire and wounded at least one of them.
Corporal Brad Kerr, originally from Rock Hill, S.C, used the high-powered optical sights on his TOW missile system to observe the fleeing enemy fighters and to confirm that one was indeed wounded. As the other Taliban escaped into the mountains the wounded man was left for dead.
Sergeant Dan Trackwell, a native of Klamath Falls, Oregon, and member of the Combined Anti-Armor Team, was one of the four Marines who ventured up the mountain to find the enemy.
"We went up the mountain and found the wounded guy hiding behind a rock," said Trackwell. He and Cpl. Jesse Clingan, of Uniontown, Pa., determined that the fighter had lost a lot of blood and appeared to be in severe pain.
Corporal Daniel Dimaso, a 22-year old from Hopewell Junction, New York, stripped off his own t-shirt and made a tourniquet to control the bleeding from the gunshot wound on the guerilla's lower left leg, while Pvt. 1st Class Daniel Fondonella, from Mt. Vernon, N.Y., provided security.
"We gave him first aid and made the tourniquet, but he looked like he was going into shock," said Clingan. "We knew we had to get him off the mountain or he would die."
Gathering up the injured man, the Marines signaled for the corpsman at the vehicles in the canyon to prepare for their arrival. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Dessel, a corpsman assigned to the BLT, immediately went up to the base of the hill with Cpl. Joshua Jackson where he met up with Trackwell, who carried the enemy down the mountain. The corpsman made a quick assessment after looking at the patient and radioed that immediate additional medical care was needed.
Dessel, of Doylestown, Pa., said the first aid performed by the Marines saved the life of the enemy, but knew more was needed to keep him alive.
The CAAT Marines brought him to the battalion's command post where the battalion surgeon, Navy Lt. Brendon Drew, joined Dessel to examine the man.
"He's going to need surgery within 4-6 hours," said Drew, after noting the severity of the wound. He instructed the Marines to keep an eye on the patient to ensure he did not fall asleep while he and Dessel worked on the wound.
The Marines stood beside the patient taking turns holding the IV bag and blocking the bright Afghan sun from his eyes, as Drew and Dessel continued to work on the patient.
Rummaging through his medical bag, Drew looked up at the CAAT Marines and Dessel and said, "Good work. This is what it looks like when the Marines do it right." Drew explained that the immediate medical attention and the quick intervention from the corpsman saved a life.
After the patient was stabilized, he was placed on a stretcher and repositioned nearby to a shady spot to wait on a helicopter. When the helicopter arrived, ironically it was the same CAAT Marines who were hunting him down an hour before who carried him through ankle deep water and across a giant, dusty landing zone where he could be evacuated to a nearby military medical facility.
After he recovers, the enemy will be questioned to determine the extent of his involvement in recent fighting with Marine forces.
"I hope we can get some information from him eventually," Trackwell said.
"This shows that we are adhering to the rules and basic humanity," said Maj. Brian Christmas, the BLT operations officer, as he remarked on the treating of a wounded enemy.
The 22nd MEU is operating as Task Force Linebacker supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The MEU consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (Rein.) 266, and MEU Service Support Group 22.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC) visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.