CAMP DELARAM II, Afghanistan --
‘Sleep-in Sunday’ is the affectionately given nickname to the one day of rest afforded to the Marines and sailors of Regimental Combat Team 6 each week.
Some Marines and sailors are given the opportunity to sleep in or take care of personal errands such as laundry and haircuts during the few hours of down time.
The morning of March 25 started off like every other Sunday for the hospital corpsmen of Embedded Partnering Team, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) on Camp Delaram II, but was quickly transformed when a traffic accident turned into a mass-casualty event.
“[Corpsmen] are never off-duty,” said Chief Petty Officer Charles R. Schaefer, medical chief, CLB-4. “We all have to be ready at any time.”
Two hospital corpsmen, Petty Officer 1st Class Louis Bismonte and Petty Officer 2nd Class Frederick B. Ehlers, were relaxing in their sleeping quarters when EPT interpreters knocked on their door telling the sailors to grab their medical supplies and come to the Afghan National Army medical tent.
“When we got to the tent, the first casualties had already been brought in,” said Ehlers. “[The ANA] were making trips back and forth from the accident site, bringing back groups of the injured.”
A civilian bus had crashed near the camp’s entry control point resulting in 28 casualties, including the death of five Afghan civilians.
“We were working with the ANA medics to provide the first level of care,” said Ehlers. “If [the casualties] needed a higher level of care, we sent them to the [Shock-Trauma Platoon].”
According to Ehlers, the sailors had previous experience instructing ANA medical personnel with the 5th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps on battlefield medical care, but had not worked with Afghan medics in an operational environment until the March 25 mass-casualty event.
“We are here to train the trainers,” said Ehlers. “These ANA medics who go to our courses will be able to go back to their units and teach others.”
The ANA medics from the corpsmen’s last four-week course graduated March 17 and had already left Delaram II to assume their duties at different units throughout the battlespace when the mass-casualty event occurred.
The Afghan medical personnel working to treat the injured civilians at Delaram II were not former students of the EPT corpsmen but still offered the sailors a chance to evaluate where the ANA medics were in terms of training and preparedness.
“Like any mass-casualty event, it was very chaotic, but the [ANA] did well,” said Bismonte.
The conduct of the corpsmen and ANA medics who responded to the mass-casualty event rapidly and professionally led to the survival of casualties that would not otherwise have lived, said CLB-4’s medical chief.
“I saw the bus … and it was near totally destroyed,” said Schaefer. “[The bus] looked like it had been bent in half. If it were not for our corpsmen, there would have been more killed.”
The sailors were recognized for their conduct, March 28, when they were awarded Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals in a small ceremony outside of their combat operations center on Delaram II.