FORWARD OPERATING BASE EDINBURGH, Afghanistan --
Located in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, Forward Operating Base Edinburgh, or FOB Edi as most who live here call it, is a key logistics installation for Operation Enduring Freedom.
While the main mission of FOB Edi may not be direct action, the service members they keep healthy, fed, hydrated and supplied with fuel and ammo are the ones taking the fight to the enemy.
The logistics hub for Regional Command Southwest's Northern Helmand province runs like a finely oiled machine. When a unit in Edi's area of responsibility needs supplies, they call the S4 logistics officer in charge, and the airdrop process starts.
"Once we know that a unit needs supplies, we figure out if we have it here and if we don't, where can we get them," said 2nd Lt. Zander Carbajal, S4 and OIC of FOB Edi, and a native of Ventura, Calif. "If we don't have the supplies here, we make arrangements through the Air Force to have the supplies airdropped, so we can push the supplies out to the units that need them."
Within hours of the initial request being made, pallets are prioritized and the mission begins.
"When the request comes to us through S4, we start preparing for the airdrop," said Lance Cpl. Peter Leonard second in charge of arrival, departure and airfield control at FOB Edi and a native of Clarkston, Wash. "On average, we're getting about 100 bundles per week."
Watching the pallets float down from the C-130 Hercules, the ride down appears peaceful. Then the pallets make their landing known, hitting the ground with a force hard enough to send bottles of water flying, and food exploding out of the packaging like a fragmentation grenade.
As Marines and Navy corpsmen make their way to the pallets, it looks like they're approaching a battlefield in which war was waged with meatball marinara and M&Ms.
"Once the pallets have landed on the DZ (drop zone), we cut off the parachutes and burn the pallets so we're not leaving a mess," said Sgt. Davies, noncommissioned officer in charge of ADAC. "Water seems to land a little easier than food, but it's still a little bit of a mess ... Hey, we're being fed so it's great."
Once FOB Edi has taken control of the pallets, the supplies are loaded up and taken to the unit in need.
In a war where a majority of casualties stem from roadside bombs, less time on the roads means less lives at risk.
"Any time we can get supplies in through the air delivery system, we prefer it," Carbajal said. "The less men I have to put on the roads, the better."
Though at first it appears FOB Edi's main mission is to support units logistically, it's only one their missions.
Edi houses a team called Dust-Off, whose mission is to pick up wounded patients in the field via a UH-60 Blackhawk and get them back to Edi.
"In most cases, we're the closest role two medical facility for Dust-Off to get to," said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Barker, officer in charge of the Shock Trauma Platoon. "Typically, within 15 minutes of receiving the patient, we've already put new blood into them, and have stopped, or slowed the bleeding. As soon as we can, we try to get them to a role three facility, which is (Camp) Bastion for us."
Though airdrops lessen the likelihood of causalities, there's no shortage of work for the medical staff on Edi.
"Of the approximate 30-35 critical patients we've seen in the last five weeks, about 75 percent of them are from IEDs [improvised explosive device]," said Barker. "The more our guys are on the road and on foot patrols, the more patients we can expect to see."
The sense of community Edi has is beyond reproach.
"We really are one team, one fight," Carbajal said. "Yeah, it may sound corny but it's the truth. We live the motto."
Carbajal's words couldn't be truer. Like any community or family, members of Edi take care of their own. Members here give their blood so teammates can live.
"When we get a patient in, one of the first things we do is get blood back into them," said Barker, a native of Camden, N.Y. "Though we have a supply of blood here, we often set up a walk-in process. Live blood can be more useful than what we have stored."
The walk-in process starts when members of Edi are alerted that there's a patient here who needs a certain type of blood. When a service member has that blood type, he then goes to the STP to donate it.
Marines at Edi want to make sure the folks building the pallets and getting them here know what they do is vital.
"It can be easy to lose track of the mission, but what the Air Force does is vital to our success," said Leonard. "If I ever got the chance, I would thank them (airdrop crews) for what they do. Airdrops are essential. They save lives."