Saturday, January 27, 2007

Soldiers Deploy

Medics up for challenge Soldiers eager to put skills to use in war zone

Bombardier Steven Gilby, 32, embraces his
six-month-old daughter Bevyn at CFB Petawawa, where troops held a departure
ceremony yesterday prior to their deployment to Kandahar. "It's hard to leave
her," the proud new dad confesses.
PETAWAWA -- A television in the corner of the field hospital canteen is on but nobody's watching.
It's somewhat ironic, since a live update is relaying news about U.S. operations in Afghanistan and a group of 42 Canadian medics are minutes away from leaving for the war-ravaged country.
These medics are a young, excited lot. They gather in small groups around the CFB Petawawa canteen, socializing before a long bus ride to Trenton and an even longer flight to Kandahar.
There is an undeniable sense of nervous anticipation.
"It's basically a roller coaster of emotions," Capt. Nori Bickwell confides while exchanging goodbyes. "The only thing that helps you get through it is this team. As a medical unit, we have to rely on each other."
These are Canada's military lifesavers, trained as medical specialists and combat-ready troopers.
Bickwell, 34, is a critical care nurse and one of a handful of Ottawa-based medics being deployed to Afghanistan on a six-month rotation. She joined the military to pursue a degree in nursing. Sixteen years later, she finds herself being catapulted into a war zone -- and it's at a time when critical care in the military is changing.
"The casualties we're seeing in this mission isn't like what we have seen in the past," Bickwell says, explaining that new enemy tactics, like suicide attacks, have altered how medics are trained.
Sadly, these medics predict a busy rotation.
Thankfully, patient care is what they live for.
"It's hard to refuse," Lieut. Luc Dionne says before grabbing his bag and reporting to roll call. Dionne, a 25-year-old health-care administrator based in Ottawa, only learned last month he was going to Afghanistan, but it's an opportunity he says many in the medical profession won't ever get. 'The pinnacle' Capt. Jacques Pinard agrees. "It's probably the pinnacle of my career," says Pinard, a 27-year-old health-care administrator based in Edmonton. The medics have been receiving advice from soldiers already in Afghanistan about preparation. They also received some tips on some "luxury items" to pack for the trip -- if "luxurious" constitutes running shoes, gloves and a toque. Complete Story at Ottawa Sun

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