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Injured Airman credits training for saving her life
Students in the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course move simulated victims during training May 11, 2009 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The training prepares Airmen for upcoming deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)
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Injured Airman credits training for saving her life

Posted 9/10/2009   Updated 9/10/2009 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Amber Balken
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

9/10/2009 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS)  -- The training one Airman received during the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course at the Air Force Expeditionary Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and the quick reaction of her teammates is what she attributed to saving her life.

While on a convoy in Iraq Aug. 21, Capt. Wendy Kosek's vehicle was struck by an explosively formed projectile, or EFP, an improvised explosive device that is formed to directly penetrate armor and release shrapnel in all directions.

In the seconds immediately following the explosion, smoke filled the vehicle Captain Kosek was a passenger in. She quickly assessed herself and the servicemembers around her. Her quick self-assessment proved that she had been injured on her hand, face and leg.

What she didn't know was that shrapnel had entered her calf, broke her tibia and lodged itself behind her knee, millimeters from striking a major artery in her thigh and nerves. The shrapnel had also peppered her body armor.

Across from her, a fellow servicemember had been severely injured. It was at that time, the shock set in.

"I was not screaming, I did not feel pain," said Captain Kosek, a legal officer from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. "The assessment I did on myself was not extensive, it was to determine what I could do from a military standpoint, I knew that we would need to exit the (vehicle), but the Army major and I were unlikely able to do this on our own."

Teammates lifted Captain Kosek from the downed vehicle and placed her on the road while two other teammates tended her wounds, kept her conscious and guarded her from secondary attacks. The injured were then loaded into a casualty evacuation vehicle and transported to Camp Victory for triage.

During the ride to Camp Victory, Captain Kosek's leg was stabilized and she was kept conscious by two teammates. Behind her, her injured teammate was in immediate need of medical care. Capt. Maureen Wood a fellow Air Force legal officer, from Andrews AFB, Md., attended to him, protected him and essentially saved his life.

There is no real backup for convoys when they are hit, Captain Kosek said.

"There are no (AH-64) Apaches circling overhead just waiting to provide air support. You have yourself, and you have your fellow Americans. The heroism and officership demonstrated on that day can barely be described in words," she said.

Prior to ACST training, Captain Kosek, and other Airmen in the legal career field attended the Judge Advocate Functional ACST Course taught by the center's judge advocate staff. The four-day course combines both classroom and field training exercises specific to the legal career field.

There are two distinctly different portions to the training, said Capt. Paolino Caliendo, the Expeditionary Center staff judge advocate and course director for the JAG course. The classroom portion provides students with a general and theater-specific operation law subject matter that prepares them for specific roles during their deployment.

The field training portion of the JAG course teaches supplementary contingency skills training, Captain Caliendo said. The rules of engagement and rules of use of force component combines a lecture on the law of self defense and its application, wound ballistics and body trauma, and the psychological and physiological reactions of people under high-stress tactical environments and combat situations.

The Expeditionary Center's JAG course leads into the main ACST course where the students receive advanced training in combatives, IED recognition, military operations in urban terrain and combat first aid.

"Our students get a well-rounded training regimen before they deploy," Captain Caliendo said. "The bottom line is we know our students, while deployed, can get into some dangerous situations and through training like this we hope it will help bring them home safely."

"The training we received saved my, and my teammates' lives," Captain Kosek said. "It is so real and very necessary."

Maj. Gen. Kip L. Self, the Expeditionary Center commander, said Captain Kosek's experience was harrowing, but her reaction is "inspiring."

"A common thread to these stories of survival is the advanced combat skills training received prior to deployment," General Self said. "Wendy's account validates the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's efforts to deliver the most relevant tactics, techniques and procedures. This is a great motivator for our cadre and reminds them what we do here saves lives."

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