On August 26th, the international airport in Kabul was packed with Afghan civilians fleeing the country, working their way past coalition and American soldiers to get to the awaiting aircraft. At 6:00 p.m., a suicide bomb went off with devastating results.
Eye Witness Account
Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Desautels had been at the airport for a little over a month before the bombing. His eye-witness account came out recently via an Air Force news release.
“There were lots of very badly injured people hurt … lots of blood. The surgeons were worn out. Many died on the operating table.”Lt. Col. Brian Desautels
In the bombing, the United States lost 13 service members, 11 Marines, an Army soldier, and one Navy corpsman. Desautels' Personnel Recovery Task Force with 170 airmen trained in search and rescue prevented more Afghans from losing their lives.
The team worked as a part of Operation Allies Refuge to take care of the wounded and evacuate them from the airport. Pararescuemen provided trauma care to 24 casualties, and 20 more were cared for at the Marines' Casualty Collection Point.
Trained For This
Many PJs and PRTFs spend years preparing for a situation like the bombing, which led to levelheadedness and focus.
"From day one, we did drills, exercises, and primary, alternate, contingency, and emergency plans for accountability.
“I was so proud of the [Personnel Recovery Task Force] to get full accountability within minutes. You can’t provide support without accountability. Once accounted for, I told them to find out where they could help,”Lt. Col. Brian Desautels
His men did as much as they possibly could for everyone who was hurt in the bombing. But, it was a snippet of the weeks they had spent hard at work making sure they could evacuate the refugees.
Not The Norm
The soldiers knew that the Allies Refuge was not like any other time they had been in Afghanistan from the get-go. There were few supplies, no base support, and a sketchy security situation.
The Personnel Recovery Task Force had to be flexible and aware. The team had Guardian Angels who were ready to find, treat, and recover.
They helped get as many at-risk people out of the country as humanly possible, even if they had to coordinate it themselves, and they kept it up right until the final C-17 left on August 30th.