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Airmen medically treat, evacuate 46 Afghans in mass casualty incident

by Capt. Kristen Duncan
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

4/1/2010 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Airmen here responded to a mass casualty incident in Helmand Province March 31 following an improvised explosive device explosion at a local market in Nahr-e Saraj.

Shortly after 9 a.m. early reports indicated a large explosion occurred, resulting in a high number of casualties and within 10 minutes members of Regional Command-South, 41st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron and 451st Air Expeditionary Wing at Camp Bastion began to respond.

Air Force combat search and rescue teams treated and triaged 30 patients, including five individuals needing immediate lifesaving measures. The HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter aircrews evacuated 16 patients, including an additional five requiring immediate lifesaving measures to local medical facilities for further care.

"This was a phenomenal combined effort to accomplish this mission," said Lt. Col. Thomas Kunkel, the 41st ERQS commander. "The coordination that occurred in the minutes after the incident between RC-South, the British Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) and the 41st ERQS ERQS was timely and accurate, which enabled the precise and immediate accomplishment of this mass casualty event in a high-risk environment with minimal safety or execution concerns."

Air Force combat rescue officers and pararescuemen specialize in combat search and rescue and personnel recovery. Since February 2009, they have conducted casualty evacuation throughout southern Afghanistan, operating from Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of their missions involve caring for Afghan civilians, Afghan National Army soldiers and Afghan National Police.

"The foundation for this effort has been the daily interaction with action officers from each of these organizations, and it demonstrates each party's commitment to overcome daily communication and other challenges -- including operating from three separate locations -- to ensure all casualties receive life-saving care in the most timely manner," Colonel Kunkel said.

In total, 18 patients were treated at the Camp Bastion Role 3 Hospital and another 28 were treated at an Italian nongovernmental organization medical facility. Eight local Afghans died at the scene of the attack and six reportedly succumbed to their wounds.

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