Padre Robin Richardson is an Army Chaplain currently deployed to Afghanistan with 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA). In this blog he writes about his impressions of watching ISAF medics treating an injured insurgent.
Very few of the genuine insurgents come from anywhere near here. But by coercion and violence they recruit some of the younger men to carry out the more risky tasks for them. The insurgent knows that if you open fire on a member of the Afghan military or the partnered ISAF troops, the response will be both immediate and accurate as well as proportionate. Information they can conveniently leave out when forcing young men to carry weapons for them, or to shoot and scoot at a patrol. But the patrols will still go out; the locals have been so thankful that the intimidation from the Taliban drops away when the Afghan Police, Afghan Army and ISAF are patrolling, and so we have to keep at it.
Earlier this week, whilst providing a reassuring presence in one of the local communities, gunfire rang out. The patrol immediately found cover, assessed the situation and when the firing point had been identified they engaged. The firing stopped. The patrol moved on and back to its patrol base.
Later on we heard that the gunman who had opened fire had been injured in the ISAF response and was being driven to get medical help. Lads from one of our PBs were able to get out to the road and stop the car. I was in our Medical Centre at the time. Yes, the gunman had been injured and he needed urgent attention. Immediately the Med Centre staff reacted and the hospital at Bastion was informed. A vehicle was already on its way out to pick the injured man up. It was then I heard Ryan speak. “We’ve an incoming patient”. He then listed the injuries as assessed by a medic on the ground. “ETA about ten minutes”. Equipment was prepared, responsibilities agreed upon and Ryan, a 29-year old Medic, would lead. I sat by the phone to relay information to and from the Ops Room as necessary.
Ryan’s normal gentle tone didn’t change. It was the same measured cadence he uses when talks of his fiancée, of home and of his hopes for the future. This time he was making sure that the incoming patient would get the best care they could offer, and you knew he meant every word. That this patient was an insurgent did not change a thing. He was their patient, and they were ready. The interpreter walked in and Ryan briefed him. They were ready. The phone went, I answered. “They’re at the gate”. Seconds later and I hear the quiet moan of the injured man as he is brought in. “Tell him that we will look after him as best we can here and then move him to the hospital. We will give him something to help the pain, and if he can, can he tell us his name and age.” The interpreter translates but it is Ryan who is looking into the patient’s eyes whilst the team get to work on him. No one shouts, but the scribe notes down all the information. It will allow the hospital to be prepared when the patient flies in. Pain relief is given, an assessment made and wounds are dressed. Throughout the quiet, comforting words are occasionally cut through by a moan from the injured man. “It’s OK, the pain relief will be working soon”. Quiet. The phone goes. “Helicopter will be at the HLS in 10”. The patient is stable, more comfortable and being made ready to lift to Bastion. Minutes later he is moved to the HLS and he is on his way to the operating theatre.
As I sat by the phone I did so amazed and proud of the way that this young team of medics had worked. Utterly professional and compassionate. Yes he was an insurgent, but they knew he had probably been coerced into fighting in the first place, and at the end of the day treating a man’s wounds might just help change his heart.
The team cleaned up and we put the kettle on and I remembered Jesus’ words from Matthew 5: “‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. What I saw in the actions taken to save and comfort this young man who had meant us harm, was challenging and humbling and I thank God that we have people like Ryan and all who were involved that evening who can do what’s right even under the most trying of conditions.