Former Keesler medic proud to be called 'Doc'

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Lukus Hancock
  • 81st Medical Operations Squadron
Keesler medics are constantly deployed around the world to provide critical medical care wherever needed. And not just in support of Air Force missions. Some medics are deployed with sister-service units.

A former Keesler emergency services technician had his medical expertise put to the test during a seven-month Afghanistan deployment. Staff Sgt. Ryan Hartman, 81st Medical Operations Squadron, who recently seperated from the Air Force, was deployed May 30 through Dec. 30, 2011, as one of two Air Force medics attached to a U.S. Army unit at Shindand, Afghanistan.

"I mainly served with the first platoon of the 548th Transportation Company out of Trenton, Mo." he said, "They call you 'Doc,' a title that is earned, never given. In the Army, the company medic is very important and the title comes with great honor and responsibility. They trust you with their lives and are confident in your abilities. They depend on you to care for them and ensure they make it home if things go bad."

He continued, "When you go 'outside the wire,' you have to be prepared for many contingencies, from extreme weather conditions to IEDs. Once you leave base, you are the only medical care they have until you return."

Hartman said his aid bag contained items and equipment needed to save a life in any situation. "There were chest seals for penetration injuries, cricothyrotomy kits, blood volume expanding IV fluids, mass hemorrhage control and about a dozen medications, including morphine and narcan."

He commented, "Once you have all of your gear ready -- aid bag, plate carrier, full combat load and your weapons -- it's time to load up in your (mine-resistant ambush protected) vehicle. The best way to describe this vehicle is a heavily-armored dump truck with an enclosed cab.

"We usually conducted our regular missions every other day. The longest was down to Camp Leatherneck, about 200 miles one way and took six to eight hours on the rare good day; it was routinely more than 18 hours. The longest mission I was on lasted 23 hours."

Hartman recalled an incident while returning from a mission to Leatherneck.

"We had a group of host-nation trucks in our convoy. An HNT's trailer wheels locked up and were dragging on the road, eventually causing the tires to burst into flames. We stopped and some soldiers grabbed fire extinguishers to try to put out the flames. After a few minutes, a tire exploded.

"Then I heard over the radio, 'We have a soldier down; we need the medic!' I immediately grabbed my aid bag and weapon. I left the vehicle and ran to aid my countryman and friend. He was knocked out temporarily and covered in molten rubber and soot. I assessed him and found he had (pieces of tire) in his eyes. After I irrigated his eyes, we evacuated him and two other patients, suffering from smoke inhalation, to a Slovenian forward operating base near our position. I learned later the doctor told the blast victim he would have lost his eyesight had I not treated him as I had.

"The soldiers I served with treated me as one of their own. All the guys from the first platoon became my brothers. I'll always be their 'Doc.'"

Hartman noted, "I was one of about 17 Air Force medics there. All did great things. We are all very proud of what we accomplished and the lives we impacted. Nothing can replace our experience and the bonds we created."