Injured AMC Airman credits
training for saving her life

 

by Capt. Amber Balken
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

9/11/2009 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- It takes a split second for an improvised explosive device to detonate, and knowing what to do and how to react in that split second after the explosion can save a life, as one Little Rock AFB officer recently found out.

The training Capt. Wendy Kosek, a 19th Airlift Wing legal officer, received during the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and the quick reaction of her teammates is what she attributes to saving her life.

On Aug. 21, while on a convoy in Iraq, Captain 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 service members 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 from the EFP 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, or, Improved Outer Tactical Vest.

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

"I was not screaming, I did not feel pain," Captain Kosek said. "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.

According to Capt. Kosek, during the ride to Camp Victory, her 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 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.

Before to her attendance at the ACST at the Expeditionary Center, Captain Kosek, along with other Airmen in the legal career field attended the Judge Advocate Functional ACST Course which is 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, 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," said Captain Kosek. "It is so real and very necessary."

Maj. Gen. Kip Self, 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."

The Expeditionary Center, a geographically-separated unit of Air Mobility Command, trains, educates and exercises Airmen in expeditionary combat support skills needed for deployed operations as one of their core competencies.

Students in the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course move a simulated victim during training on a Fort Dix, N.J., range on May 11, 2009. The training, taught by the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's 421st Combat Training Squadron on Fort Dix, prepares Airmen for upcoming deployments. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)


Tech. Sgt. Bernard Wilson, contingency skills instructor, provides instruction to students in the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course as they respond to a scenario requiring response to "enemy fire" during training on a Fort Dix, N.J., range on May 11, 2009. The training, taught by the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's 421st Combat Training Squadron on Fort Dix, prepares Airmen for upcoming deployments. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)

Students in the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course move simulated victims during training on a Fort Dix, N.J., range on May 11, 2009. The training, taught by the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's 421st Combat Training Squadron on Fort Dix, prepares Airmen for upcoming deployments. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)


Students in the Advanced Contingency Skills Training Course respond to a scenario during training on a Fort Dix, N.J., range on May 11, 2009. The training, taught by the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center's 421st Combat Training Squadron on Fort Dix, prepares Airmen for upcoming deployments. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol)