|126TH MED CO (AA) Album|
Some Snapshots from the 126th Medical Company
On 13 August 1998, the 126th Med Co got activated to be sent to Bosnia. We're there now and what you will see below will change continuously as we continue moving through the 270 days for which we were put on active duty.
(Click here for appropriate Bosnia greeting audio file)
Assembled, written, and photographed by CW4 David Rosenthal
We wound up leaving the U. S. about a month before our presence in Bosnia was required, largely the result of a decision by someone to ship the aircraft ahead of schedule. We landed at Eagle Base on 27 August 1998. This was the "Army side" of the major U.S. installation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, near the city of Tuzla in the northeastern portion of that country and, once there, found ourselves crammed into temporary storage in transient tents.
But as in many quasi-real environments--like prisons, theme-parks, and Eagle Base--things both change and remain the same. Some changes have been most interesting...like the snow.
On the morning of November 18th, we woke to the season's first dusting. But, like an intense storm in the Sierra, the flakes fell in bunches, some bigger than half an inch in diameter. It came as quite a surprise to many.
The other big--and most welcome--change was our move.
We're now living in what are called "Sea-huts." These versions are totally unlike the many individual 16 X 32-foot plywood structures here that also bear that name. The new Sea-huts are groupings of five 16 X 32-foot rooms built under a common roof with bathroom and shower units as part of the package.
Inside, the walls are insulated and sheetrocked with each unit intended to house 4-6 people. Right now, our folks are crammed 8 and 10 to a room as we wait for the final phases of construction. Then we'll be able to spread out a final time (hopefully...).
Another kind of housing is the "container," an 8 X 16-foot rectangular metal "apartment" with one or two windows and a single door. In the past, they've been arrayed separately but here in Tent City #6, they're stuck side-by-side in two facing rows of sixteen and covered by a single roof. We call them the "boxes."
Inside, they're not particularly roomy but the two people they put into each one seldom hate each other too bitterly by the end of the first week.
Container "buildings" also have built-in bathroom/shower units and, like the "Sea-huts," the heaters seem to keep them nice and warm. But whether you live in a hut or a box, you find yourself happy you're no longer in a tent. But then again, you also wonder why they call this place "Tent City #6" since it's brand new and there's not a single tent here.
It's inescapable "logic" like this that makes old-timers like myself realize some aspects of the Army never change.
And something else that hasn't changed is the reality that our "first-up" crews still don't have anywhere to be on stand-by or get quality rest. Loitering underfoot in Flight Operations remains the daily standard and passers-by occasionally mistake us for furniture or mannequins. But promises of "improvements" have been made, we're allowed to know, and we can only hope that our Nebraska Guard successors might fare better. Perhaps the promises might materialize by the time we leave.
The "communal computer" is still here and gets quite a bit of use.
"First-up" still sleeps on the grungy bunks in the stuffy, dusty, equipment-packed rear end of the Swedish Medical unit's tent and the 300 kW generator roaring less than 50 feet away still makes sleep a continual challenge. The people who keep telling us we should stop complaining need to try to spend a night here. But our former inability to get a shower is sort of resolved since our living quarters are only a short hike away now.
Our hosts, the Swedes, are quite accommodating and the front half of their sleeping tent has a nice couch we can share and watch movies with them. They've got some nice quarters under construction to replace the tent and rumor has it we might inherit it. They'll likely want to keep the couch, though.
But no matter WHAT happens, MEDEVAC missions and training continues and, at night, we use Night Vision Goggles. This is what it looks like through these fascinating devices as CW3 Jeff Crandall (on top) and SSG J. J. Moore do a midnight pose for me after we did some NVG-aided terrain flight in the mountains to the south of Tuzla. These mountains, by the way, bear a very close resemblance to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
We also have regular MEDEVAC exercises with the hospital here and it's turning out to be quite productive for them since our folks are highly experienced relative to their active-Army counterparts.
And Flight Operations--where fantasy ends and reality reigns on a 24-hour basis--has come up to speed very well. Our talented folks there have figured out what's necessary and what's meaningful, and how to make sure it all gets done. Meanwhile, everything else gets handled too...
So I'll wrap up with this "arty" lens-flare shot of the aircraft on the MEDEVAC pad. Individually, the days roll by quickly but, collectively, seem to crawl. Meanwhile, the temperatures continue falling (highs only in the 30s and 40s now with lows into the teens). The trees have lost most of their leaves and flying over the countryside lets you know in no uncertain terms that winter is nearly here.
And if you're wondering what I look like, that's me on the left. I'm with CW4 Ray Green, my roomate, another old-guy 126th-er, and webmaster of his own page about our experiences here.
If you'd like to see the rest of my pages, go to: www.ridgenet.net/~n6tst.
That's it for now (late November, 1998). Let me know what you think.