By Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Kilmer, Air Force News Service
/ Published April 03, 2013
FORT MEADE, Md. (AFNS) -- Three weeks after arriving to her deployed location in Afghanistan, insurgents showered then-Tech. Sgt. Angela Blue's base with 80-millimeter mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire.
During the attack, she received a radio request to report to the Afghan National Army side of the compound. Three local nationals had been hit by shrapnel and were in need of assistance.
As an aeromedical technician for Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, Blue was directly responsible for 15 Army Soldiers assigned to her unit; a team she called, 'my guys.' As a medical professional, she took on the role of medic for about 230 additional patients on Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sweeney.
As Blue entered the Afghan aid station, she said it took her about three to four seconds to assess and comprehend the overwhelming sight of the patients' severe injuries. Then she went to work.
Blue triaged the wounded, while she simultaneously directed additional medical care and arranged for medical evacuation. While Blue tended to her patients awaiting medevac, she noticed a patient bleeding from his already bandaged leg. She promptly applied a second tourniquet to stop the bleeding until the medevac arrived.
As rockets and mortars continued to fall just behind the aid station, Blue said she was oblivious to the explosions.
"I didn't hear it because I was so focused on taking care of his bleeding that I could hear people talking, but I couldn't hear the explosions anymore. They had to tell me (about the indirect fire) afterward."
A few weeks later Blue found out the patient lost his leg, but her efforts saved his life.
In her remote location with limited supplies, she saved many lives over the course of her nine-month deployment. Citing her Cajun roots, her Army unit nicknamed the East Texas native, the witch doctor.
"It was always a huge deal to me whenever I had to work on these guys, anytime," she said, adding that while she was treating patients with severe injuries she would send up small prayers that her methods would keep her patient alive until the medical evacuation helicopters arrived.
Toward the end of her deployment Blue and her team were traveling as part of a resupply convoy when they heard a loud explosion.
An Afghan Humvee transporting four soldiers triggered a pressure-plate improvised explosive device about a half a mile away from her Humvee. As one of the only combat medics assigned to the convoy, the potential for casualties called her to action.
Escorted by her team of Army Soldiers, men she called, 'brothers,' Blue said they jumped out of the truck and took off running to the front.
After a half-mile run with more than 50 pounds of gear, a winded Blue said she went straight to the casualties and started working on them. Throughout her nine-month deployment, Blue had been preparing herself for the worst case scenario, repeatedly thinking about what she would do in the most traumatic situations.
"You just have to train in your mind. 'Ok, what if this happens....what if he's not breathing,' I would think about these things as I was getting ready to go to sleep at night," she said. "You think about this 24/7 because you want to make sure that when it's time to go, you are perfect."
At the site of the IED explosion, Blue performed initial triage, and directed the team to treat other casualties with less severe wounds. She immediately tended to the driver who had open fractures to both of his lower legs, severe head injuries, and third-degree burns to his body.
Blue placed a tourniquet on one leg and instructed a teammate to place one on the other leg. Upon further evaluation, she noticed that the patient's breathing was labored and his vitals were diminishing,
"'The commander came over and said the helicopter will be here in half an hour,'" she said. "I told him, 'This guy doesn't have half an hour, he has about 10 minutes.'"
With little options left, she directed a Romanian medic on the scene to begin intravenous drips. As the patient's vitals improved, Blue continued to monitor all four patients until the medevac arrived.
Despite their traumatic wounds, all of the Afghan soldiers survived.
Three hours after treating casualties from the first IED, the truck Blue was riding struck another IED.
By the time her truck hit the IED, she said that the convoy had already cleared 12 IEDs along the road.
"We found them and blew them in place, so I was pretty used to the explosions at this point," she said. "But when our truck blew up, I was not used to that explosion, it was a little too close for comfort."
Blue sustained combat-related injuries and needed to be medically evacuated herself.
Today, Master Sgt. Blue uses her real-life experience to enhance training for Self-Aid Buddy Care instructors at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
Blue said she emphasizes to her instructors that, "You may not have a medic to care of you. You may be the first person on the scene, so you need to know how to do this stuff to save lives.
"Or you may have one medic and 15 guys, but what are you going to do if 12 of them are injured,'" she said. "I think it really hits home to the non-medical personnel. You never know how you will react in these situations, so you have to be prepared."
Blue was featured in the seventh volume of the Air Force series Portraits in Courage for her actions while deployed. She also earned the Air Force Combat Action Medal and a Purple Heart. Additionally she was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, Army Combat Action Badge, and Army Combat Medical Badge. Subsequently, she was also honored with a flight room dedicated in her name at the Airey NCO Academy at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.