Through the door, “Fox 5, Grim is in contact. Outlaw 26 just took fire.”
Outlaw 26 is my wife. (pause to let that sink in…)
I scrambled from my CHU (containerized housing unit) and ran up to our TOC (Tactical Operations Center).
The radios were screaming. Grim Troop was ambushed as they approached a school in a bad part of town. They took casualties and then worse yet, their Armored ambulance was struck by an IED flipping it over and wounding and killing their medics.
I had just assumed temporary command as my Commander was taking leave. Talk about out of the frying pan…
Then the next report came in, Outlaw 26 taking fire, damaged, returning to base. Nauseous? You betcha.
“Good.” I thought as she reporting in that she made it back to base. Her and her copilot will swap out and have another crew step in. I should have known my wife better… or maybe I was in denial at that point. She hopped in another aircraft and went right back to the fight. That pit in my stomach grew much larger in an instant. I was crawling up the walls of the TOC and out of my skin.
We had a section of Bradley Fighting vehicles in the area and they moved in to report and assist. They were attacked too and one of our platoon sergeants took a round in the plate. The fight lasted for hours.
It was a long hard day. Everyone performed with extreme valor that day, including my wife. Listening to the shit storm on the radio drove me batty. I did not want to be in a tent. I wanted to be out with my unit. I sure as shit wanted to trade places with my wife (though I cannot fly a helicopter…)
Listening and waiting and enduring were a common part of the type of combat we faced. There were many other times where the mission and rules of engagement forced upon us helplessness and being targets all at the same time. Minimizing collateral damage and being less agile than the enemy condemned us to play by an uneven set of rules. Many days were spent chasing enemies while shackled to ROE and slow reports. To clarify, those days were spent locked on a piece of land taking pot shots from the enemy and trying to maneuver. Even though we had armored vehicles and lots of firepower, we were still sitting ducks.
The day Outlaw 26 took a round in the fuel tank and limped her aircraft back to base is a high anxiety point branded in my brain forever. What made it worse was I sat in a tent on a Forward Operating Base where the only thing I could do was answer the radio and stare at pushpins on maps.
From all the times sitting taking fire or guarding myself being out in the open and supporting others for hours on end, I feel I have developed a serious agitation point when I sit in one place too long. The anger and anxiety and helpless feelings that accompany me when I sit around too long are points I am still working on.
One symptom of PTSD is a lack of concentration and focus. I think I can refine mine to extreme focus with little attention. The hyper arousal that remains with me to constantly check my surrounding is a little timer in my brain that keeps ticking. I imagine it is like having ADHD. When I am working on something and focused, I can plow through it. My brain however, tells me to go check on other stuff instinctively. It comes in handy when my kids are in their room and just a bit too quite. Not so much when trying to get certain types of work done or relax and sleep.
Guinness for Strength, Meditation and Vitamins for focus
I am currently tinkering with a bunch of techniques to try and keep focused and drive on. Caffeine (see previous post) and some vitamins are what I am rolling with now, though I am going to try out yoga. I have been reading a lot of articles about meditation and its benefits for PTSD, so if anyone can recommend a place on Long Island for Transcendental Meditation or a good Yoga houses out on the Island, I am game.
I have a few more posts brewing about living with my wife in a combat zone, so stay tuned. Thanks!