During the war with Iraq and its aftermath, the Tribune is giving readers firsthand glimpses into life at the front by publishing parts of e-mails and letters from Portland area residents and former residents participating in or observing the fighting and reconstruction of the country.
They and their families have volunteered to share these letters to give readers a better idea of what U.S. forces are facing in the Persian Gulf and while waiting stateside to go overseas.
Any details that could put troops in harm's way or that families deem too personal have been excluded.
Krista Schade, 29, is a firefighter and paramedic with the Portland Fire Bureau. As a U.S. Navy reservist, she is temporarily assigned to the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton in California. Her unit, the Navy's 4th Medical Battalion, is scheduled to catch up with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which is currently in Kuwait City, Kuwait.
She wrote the following e-mails to her parents, David and Candy Schade of Oregon City. Both were sent the same day, after an Internet glitch delayed the first e-mail.
16 days into the war
I am currently sitting in Camp Pendleton, 'waiting' for the next bird to fly us out. OK É They have been telling that to us for two weeks now.
Upon arrival, we immediately began preparation for departure. Supply outfitted all those who arrived with no gear, which included uniforms, packs, canteens, gear belts, etc. Many of these sailors are from hospital units, no field units, so they brought all of their Navy uniforms whites and blues no greens. Poor people É they also found out that they get to ship their gear home at their own expense. Amen for the Portland Marines who have trained me one less headache!
Upon medical inspection, it was determined that I was missing my smallpox let me tell you what a treat that immunization is! Ten days into it, and I have a blister the size of a penny that itches like you wouldn't believe. The lymph nodes in my right arm have swollen, and I can't put my arm down. But É a little pain is better than a whole lot of pox! I volunteered to give the lovely little shot since I arrived early, and spent two days immunizing 500-plus sailors and Marines let's just say they don't have a whole lot of love for me right now as they hit the seven-day mark!
This week has been a combination of people finishing their check-in process and classes. The classes are a must-have since many of the personnel are not medical on the outside world. Classes included are Famfire to familiarize ourselves with the 9 mm pistols that we'll be carrying (the idea of 500-plus corpsmen with pistols ought to scare Saddam right out of hiding!). We also spent a day going through the gas chamber to make sure that our gas masks will work mine works! And I have gotten really good at it, so breathe easy (no pun intended :) ). Other classes included loading patients into Humvee ambulances each ambulance can hold four stretcher-bound patients or eight walking wounded plus two corpsmen. We've had many classes on different types of chemicals that could possibly be dropped and how we will treat them. Classes to remind us how to render buddy aid, start IVs É so, yes É I'm bored, but I feel these classes are very important for those who don't get this training. É These are the classes that will save their lives and mine.
As for my job, that changed rapidly as the war first progressed. I originally was assigned to the shock trauma platoon. As the war progressed, all four women were taken off the team and placed elsewhere they say it was a political move no arguments from me! My unit is 4th Medical Battalion based out of San Diego. We are assigned to IMEF (Marine expeditionary unit).
As I said in the last letter, I don't think I was ever given a clear picture of what was going to be expected of me, but as I talk to the elders and Desert Storm veterans, neither were they their first time. We sent off 81 people last Sunday and have heard through the grapevine that they are very mobile! As the IMEF moves forward, they pack up and move with them. I believe the shock trauma platoon teams are about 10 miles from the zone, and the surgical teams are about 30 to 40. My job, unfortunately, will be to transport the patients enemy and/or Marines (U.S. first!) from the shock trauma platoon to the surgical teams without wrong turns! I will have my GPS (global positioning system) on me (hopefully, it'll work there) plus my compass!
I am also learning basic Humvee maintenance so that if we break down, I can help change the air filter, etc. É Nothing is stopping me from getting back home! It sounds like we will be living out of our packs and one sea bag that put a cramp in most of the Navy people who thought they could have two. Amen for light packing I had already consolidated.
It sounds like showers might be weekly if we are lucky, so I have five packs of baby wipes packed may be asking for more.
I watch the news, I see what has happened to the vehicles that went the wrong way É and rumors fly as to where we'll be and what we'll be doing. I believe my first destination will be Kuwait City. From there I don't know. I also believe the majority of my duties will be humanitarian. So I have no timeline as to how long we'll be gone. I do know that I want to come home as quickly as I can and with all my fingers and toes!
Todd Holman is a hospital corpsman assigned to the Puget Sound U.S. Naval Shipyard Hospital in Bremerton, Wash. He has been deployed to a fleet hospital in Spain as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Holman regularly e-mails a circle of friends about his experiences, including the Portland family of Anthony Acuna, an Oregon National Guard medic who also has been mobilized for overseas duty. Acuna first met Holman when he was in the Navy and worked at the shipyard hospital.
U.S. troops take Baghdad
Well, Monday (April 7) was my first day working with the patients. We are working 12-hour shifts: two days on, two days off, three days on, two days off É etc. Today was an off day for me, but everyone had to go in and help with the shift. É So my day was spent in the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit), which is part of the ICU (intensive care unit). Even though I have only worked there three days, I have already heard many stories and seen quite a few different injuries from mild to extreme. I would say about 75 percent of the patients have a positive attitude.
I watched on the news today, about an hour and a half ago, Iraqi citizens and U.S. Marines pulling down a big statue of Saddam. It was a nice thing to see, the Iraqi people acting out against that tyrant. Another reason that it was nice to see this is that it means we are that much closer to getting our troops home as well as us here in Spain. I enjoy my work and what I do, but not that I have to do it. É
If you have received e-mail or letters from friends and relatives in the Iraq war and would like to share them with Tribune readers, contact News Editor Connie Pickett at cpickett@portland tribune.com or 503-546-5167.