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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
CBS News Crew Killed in Baghdad Attack; Iraq Too Dangerous For Journalists?
Aired May 29, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. And welcome to a special edition of A.C. 360. I'm Carol Costello, in for Anderson Cooper tonight on this Memorial Day -- as we honor the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, a terrible outbreak of violence in Baghdad.
A wave of car bombings killed dozens of people -- among the dead, a U.S. soldier, and two members of a CBS News crew, cameraman Paul Douglas and sound technician James Brolan. CBS correspondent Kimberly Dozier was seriously injured and is now in a U.S. military hospital.
Ryan Chilcote has been following the story from Baghdad. He joins me now live.
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, it has been an -- yes, Carol, it has been an exceptionally violent 24 hours here in Iraq.
More than 50 people have been killed, more than 80 wounded, in attacks around the country. Right here, in Baghdad, there were at least seven bombings, one of those bombings hitting a U.S. military patrol that CBS News had a team embedded with.
CHILCOTE (voice-over): If you look closely at the 4th Infantry Division's Humvee that was the target of the attack, you get a sense of the power of the blast. As far as we know, they never saw their attackers. That's the way it usually is for U.S. forces in Iraq, and the journalists who cover this war.
CBS News reporter Kimberly Dozier, cameraman Paul Douglas and soundman James Brolan had just gotten out of their armored vehicle when a nearby car packed with explosives detonated. Dozier was seriously wounded. Cameraman Douglas and soundman Brolan were killed.
So was an American soldier. So was an Iraqi contractor who was helping the U.S. military.
Correspondent Dozier is an experienced hand in Iraq. A year and a half ago, she appeared on CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES," describing how dangerous it was to go out, and, in her words, hunt a story, forced to rely on others to gather the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "RELIABLE SOURCES") KIMBERLY DOZIER, CBS NEWS: Well, I feel like I do everything by remote, whereas, when I first got here, say, a year ago, I could drive into the streets, go into a neighborhood, talk to Iraqis, ask what they thought about something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHILCOTE: At least six other bombs went off in the Iraqi capital Monday, most of the victims, Iraqi civilians.
These people were killed by a bomb that went off near their bus in one of Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, CBS cameraman Douglas and soundman Brolan became the 70th and 71st journalists killed by hostile action since the war began.
CHILCOTE: Six U.S. soldiers wounded in that same attack are still recovering in combat hospitals here in Iraq.
As for CBS's correspondent, she has been in and out of surgery, but doctors are cautiously optimistic she will recover -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Ryan, I have a question for you. Kimberly Dozier and her crew were embedded with U.S. troops. They were a mile from the Green Zone, supposedly the safest place in all of Iraq. When does it become too dangerous for journalists to venture out of the Green Zone at all?
CHILCOTE: Well, it becomes too dangerous, I think, when we feel like there really isn't something to add to the story by personally being there, by adding something, in terms of being able to add something, in terms of the level of reporting we can provide, by the level of feeling that we can provide.
It certainly has been becoming more dangerous recently. Remember, back in January, Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt from ABC News got hit when they were out with Iraqi security forces. And it really has gotten more dangerous since then, in particular since February, when you had that Shiite bombing here and a lot more of the sectarian violence.
It's got in particularly more dangerous for Iraqi journalists, who make up about a third of the more than 70 journalists killed here in Iraq since -- since March 2003 -- Carol.
COSTELLO: Ryan Chilcote in Baghdad, thank you.
This afternoon, the president of CBS News issued this statement on the deadly attack. He said: "This is a devastating loss for CBS News. Kimberly, Paul and James were veterans of war coverage who proved their bravery and dedication every single day. They always volunteered for dangerous assignments and were invaluable in our attempt to report the news to the American public." Tonight, Kimberly Dozier's brother is also speaking out about the risks his sister was willing to take to cover a story and the advice he would often give her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL DOZIER, BROTHER OF KIMBERLY DOZIER: Every time Kimberly comes, we -- we remind her, stay out of harm's way. But we know that she won't. She will go after the story, wherever it is and whatever risks she has to expose herself to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSTELLO: It was a difficult day across the region.
Just a short time ago, I spoke with senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre about today's violence in Baghdad and the outbreak of anti-U.S. riots in Afghanistan. I asked him if the media should now rethink the way it covers the war.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, one of the things that's interesting about is from, time to time, a Pentagon official or someone else will criticize the media for not getting out enough and covering the so-called good news in Iraq.
The truth is, A, reporters do get out. And, when they do, it's so dangerous, they risk their lives. And that's really what we have seen here with these two CBS -- the cameraman, the soundman, and -- and the correspondent fighting for her life. It just goes to show you that, even if you take every precaution and you travel with the U.S. military, you're putting your life at risk.
COSTELLO: Let's talk about Afghanistan now. The insurgency is really heating up there now. Explain to us why this is.
MCINTYRE: Well, the Taliban is moving back into the south. There's a number of theories. One is that they want to test the new NATO troops going in. The other one is that they're increasingly desperate, because they see the control the government spreading.
And a third theory is that simply they're protecting the narco traffic that goes on in the south. What the U.S. military would say is that they're having a pretty bad couple of weeks. There have been a number of strikes in which 10, 20, 30, some case -- in one case, up to 80 people were killed.
And the U.S. says it -- the Taliban can't sustain those kinds of losses over time. But what we're also seeing is that it's been quite some time, and the Taliban is still able to mount attacks against U.S. forces.
COSTELLO: All right, a final question for you about Haditha, where U.S. Marines allegedly massacred civilians. What are your sources telling you about that? MCINTYRE: Well, they're telling me that the investigation is substantially complete, that it will probably be out in the next month or so, and that the evidence looks -- is pointing very closely toward supporting the theory that Marines did kill civilians and that there will likely be criminal charges, including some charges of murder.
And they're also saying that there clearly was a cover-up, although those sources are not saying how high that extends, whether it was just the Marines involved or could it go farther up the chain of command.
COSTELLO: You talk -- you talk about documentation, as in pictures of this. Might we see them? Might the public see them, much as we did with Abu Ghraib?
MCINTYRE: Well, if they leak out. You know, the Pentagon sat on the Abu Ghraib pictures for a long time.
A lot of these pictures were taken by individual Marines and soldiers, and they were confiscated by the government as evidence. They're not likely to release them, although we have seen some pictures in video taken by independent groups afterwards. So, we have a pretty good idea of what happened there.
COSTELLO: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon -- Jamie, thanks.
MCINTYRE: You're welcome.
COSTELLO: CNN's Michael Holmes knows the risks of reporting in Iraq. Earlier this year, he shared his perspective on the dangers that go with the job.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a sad fact of war coverage that casualties become numbers, compounding the tragedy, trivializing the individual. But that's what many victims here have become, numbers, 45 killed in this bombing, 80 in that one. The maimed, their own lives shattered, even if not ended, are more numbers.
With so many deaths, it is impossible to cover the individual stories of the lives of those who perished. Reporters at work, it's easy to become anesthetized. There's an element of deja vu here sometimes -- another day, another bomb, another attack, another death toll.
(on camera): Many of us, of course, try to stay detached from the actual violence. You would go crazy if you got emotionally involved in every horror that you see. But there are always times when we in the media cannot bury it. And, usually, that's when the horror involves you or someone you know.
(voice-over): Many in the media have lost friends and colleagues here. These are photos of just some of them. It is two years since we lost two of our own, translator Duraid Mohammed Isa on the left, and one of our drivers, Yasser Katab, two vibrant young men whose lives were cut short by insurgent bullets.
We had been returning from filming a story south of Baghdad when our two cars were attacked by two cars. None of us there will forget the image of gunmen standing up through the sunroofs, firing AK-47s, wanting to kill not someone who would become a number, but us.
Cameraman Scott McWhinnie was sitting next to me. He was shot in the head, but survived. Yasser and Duraid didn't make it.
(on camera): It changed me, changed all of us in the cars that day, of course, and many people who were not. These were people we worked with, lived with, and joked around with.
(voice-over): Yasser, young, idealistic, came to work for CNN, despite his family's constant warning of the dangers. He used to bashfully teach us Arabic swear words on the way to stories.
Duraid, fun, funny, devoted father of two children the same ages as my own -- we would proudly compare photographs and laugh at their latest antics.
It's changed, too, how those of us who carry on work here in Iraq now. Those of us here in the early days would certainly take precautions, but would think little about walking the streets in Baghdad and elsewhere, speaking with locals, getting a firsthand look at the story we're covering, in this case, sitting on Saddam's famous statue before it was removed.
(on camera): This is where we do our live shots from every day, reporting to you. However, most days, this is as close as we can get to those in the city behind me.
(voice-over): It is difficult to get out and about. We do, but it is always with great caution. The kidnapping of journalist Jill Carroll is another reminder of the risks involved, just a few photos of those who have died here. It helps now and them to remind ourselves and those who watch our work that those casualty lists contain more than numbers, Iraqis or coalition forces. They're people.
Michael Holmes, CNN, Baghdad.
COSTELLO: Just ahead, what it's like to go from reporter to war casualty. I will ask a veteran "TIME" magazine correspondent who survived a potentially deadly attack.
And, later, the incredible behind-the-scenes battle to save our wounded warriors and get them back home to their families.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSTELLO: The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that as many as 120 members of the media have been killed in Iraq since the war began.
Senior "TIME" magazine correspondent Michael Weisskopf knows all too well about the dangers journalists face there. In December of 2003, he threw a live Iraqi hand grenade out of a U.S. Army Humvee, saving himself, a "TIME" photographer, and four soldiers, but he lost his right hand.
Michael Weisskopf joins us now.
Thanks for joining us tonight.
MICHAEL WEISSKOPF, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": You're welcome, Carol.
COSTELLO: Kimberly Dozier and her crew, Paul Douglas and James Brolan, were very experienced. And I know they took every precaution when -- when they were out there.
But, sometimes, when you take every precaution, you have this thing in your mind that nothing can hurt you. Was that in any way in your mind after what happened to you in Iraq?
And, after all, you are with -- with armed soldiers, who are supposed to supposedly know what they're doing, including where they're driving. That gives you kind of a sense of security, sometimes, a false sense of security. And reporters are also motivated by kind of a sense of invincibility that they're doing something important for the larger public.
COSTELLO: Well, let's talk about that, because they were embedded. Only four journalists have died while embedded with U.S. troops. Sixty-five plus died not embedded, I suppose. You would think you would be much safer with U.S. troops, but maybe, in these times, you're really not.
WEISSKOPF: You aren't, because the U.S. troops are targets. And when you get in a Humvee, you get into the crosshairs with them.
COSTELLO: The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, he -- he said of those who carried out the attacks, he called them "terrorists," he says, "that do not want the world to see the truth of what's going on in Iraq, where a determined people are fighting for freedom and liberty; the story must be told."
But, really, seeing the danger there, and seeing as how so many journalists have been killed, can we really get to that part of the story?
WEISSKOPF: In fact, it's very hard for the terrorists to distinguish between journalists attempting to carry out their duty and informing the public and U.S. troops, who are there, of course, to maintain the peace and to uproot the insurgency.
And it's a -- it's a strange kind of war that way, because almost every other war, journalists were accorded a certain kind of safety net and kind of secure position, so, they could tell the story.
COSTELLO: Well, should journalists be embedded anymore?
WEISSKOPF: Well, inevitably, it's -- it's -- allows journalists to get very close to the action. I guess the question is how often and at what risk? And...
COSTELLO: And is it worth it?
WEISSKOPF: Well, it's worth it if -- if you are there at a poignant moment, for instance, and could tell a story.
But it's also often a matter of kind of rolling the dice as to when, in fact, you will get the best story, and you will be at the right place at the right time. A lot of times, it's just kind of holding yourself up as a target for -- for these indiscriminate roadside bombs.
COSTELLO: Michael Weisskopf, thank you for joining us today. We appreciate it.
COSTELLO: We have got more extraordinary stories tonight. You're about to see how dedicated medical personnel have been saving military lives, from the battlefields of Iraq all the way to a U.S. military hospital in Germany.
It's just ahead on our Memorial Day special, "Wounded Warriors."
COSTELLO: This is the fourth Memorial Day since the war in Iraq began. So, far 2,466 troops have paid the ultimate price in Iraq, and more than 18,000 have been wounded.
Tonight, you're about to witness the amazing effort that goes into saving those wounded in Iraq, whether they're troops or reporters.
Our producer Alex Quade obtained extraordinary access to the military's emergency medical teams.
Here's part one of Alex's special report, "Wounded Warriors: The Way Home."
ALEX QUADE, CNN PRODUCER (voice-over): The firefights, the car bombs, the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the wounding of U.S. troops. So begins their medical journey home. Amidst the chaos, the pain, Army medics or Navy Corpsmen take lifesaving action. The fight continues around them. This is the first level of treatment. They bandage the fallen, carry them out. If the battle's too hot for a medevac helicopter, it's into vehicles nearby, then onto a fallback position out of the kill zone. This is triage, the next level of care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three, go.
QUADE: Navy shock and trauma platoon members check and clear the wounded -- the goal, stabilize the patient and send back to battle or onto the next level of treatment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Urgent, urgent, urgent, urgent!
QUADE: Urgent means medical evacuation. If the patient can be delivered to a combat field hospital within one hour of being wounded, what's called the golden hour, odds are, he will survive.
In the middle of the Iraqi desert, there's no L.D., no landing zone. A purple smoke grenade guides this helicopter in. The clock is ticking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) Roger. (INAUDIBLE)
QUADE: It's time for the medicine man. Medicine man, that's the call sign of the U.S. Army medevac unit, two pilots, a crew chief and a flight medic in each in Black Hawk.
CW2 HARLEY MAST, MEDEVAC PILOT: Guys in the field would get injured during their battles. And their medics on the scene can only treat them to a certain extent. Our job is to grab them and pick them up and bring them to a hospital or wherever further care is needed for the patient.
QUADE: They get the call on the radio.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) and pick those guys up?
MAST: Yes, we can do that.
QUADE: Fire up the bird. The clock is still ticking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We fly at a pretty high speed with the patients.
QUADE: Care begins in flight. They're brought to the CSH, combat support hospital, or to a forward surgical team, and turned over to the surgeons.
Medevac crews do this all day, all night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I try and think of myself in their shoes. I'm injured. I'm hurting. Maybe I'm bleeding. My life is in danger possibly. I know that my medic's tried his best and can only do so much. And then you hear the aircraft coming in that will take you out of there, the freedom bird, so to speak, and bring you to the hospital and fix you there.
QUADE: That's what happened to Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Maxwell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got the call that's litter urgent.
QUADE: A Marine injured, in and out of consciousness.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Picked him up. He'd had a mortar explode in the area. He had shrapnel on through his left side. He had a fractured left leg and a possible fracture in his left arm.
As I make sure all the bleeding is still stopped. I just manage his airway and monitored his vitals all the way back to the CSH.
QUADE: They made it within the golden hour to the next level of care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good feeling, when you can get a guy out, within 20 minutes, he's at a hospital. That's just great.
QUADE: Next, the medevac team races to a shock and trauma platoon near the front lines of Fallujah. There, we meet 19-year-old Lance Corporal Chris Allen, in Iraq one month.
LANCE CORPORAL CHRIS ALLEN, U.S. Army: I got hit by an RPG, got shrapnel in it, in my leg. The last thing I remember is just sitting on a corner, providing security and I just heard a boom and the next thing I know, I just felt pain.
Before, I wasn't scared of going out there until that happened. When I've heard the explosions, they went on me before. But that was actually the closest one where I could feel the heat and everything actually hit me. That was pretty scary.
QUADE: The surgeons say Chris' wounds are treatable and decide to keep him here. So, the helicopter takes off without him.
CAPT. BRUCE GILLINGHAM, SURGEON, US NAVY: Any time you put a patient on a helicopter, they're at risk to fire from the ground. Anything that we can treat here definitively, we will.
QUADE: The risk: the medevac helicopter being shot down, like this one.
CAPT. TRENT SHORT, MEDEVAC PILOT, US Army: We've been fired at, probably more times than we can count.
QUADE: Per Geneva Convention, medevacs must travel unarmed.
SHORT: Then around flying by an aircraft as it was shot down by a heat-seeking missile. That was probably the most unnerving feeling I felt today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Terrorists really don't care. They just shoot at whatever's flying.
QUADE: Evasive maneuvers all they can do. Translation, fancy flying.
CW2 JOSEPH CARROLL, U.S. Army MEDEVAC PILOT: We get small-arms fire. We see it at night. And during the day-time, we don't see it. So, for us, we don't know if we're getting fired on half the time.
QUADE: They fly as low as 10 feet off the ground.
MAST: We try and not think about that and think about getting the patient out of there as fast as we can.
QUADE: Despite danger, flight medic Sergeant Melinda Gates must treat her patients.
SGT. MELINDA GATES, FLIGHT MEDIC: It's a usually my crew that lets me know that we've been shot at, or that there's burning vehicles or rockets or something. I -- I really don't notice that. I'm more focused on the patients and getting them in the aircraft, getting them treated.
QUADE: We land near Karbala and follow Sergeant Gates to a forward surgical team. Two 19-year-old Marines, PFCs Randy Nichols (ph) and Frank Robinson (ph) were patched up here after taking fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was hit -- shot twice in the leg and I caught some shrapnel in the arm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had -- ran out of ammo, so I got back in, tried to get more. I turned around to get out and I got hit with a bullet in the shoulder.
QUADE: Randy and Frank are loaded onto litters to go to the next level of care.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I was lying on the side of the road and they're bandaging me up there, that's when I kind of got the reality check of everything. I was thinking, wow, I'm actually human again and things do happen and you can get hurt.
QUADE: Sergeant Gates monitor their vitals.
GATES: Medical care has come so far in the past few years guys like that may have died from infection or something like that.
QUADE: The two privates are delivered to the CSH, combat support hospital, Baghdad. Sergeant Gates hands them over to the doctors. They've made it to the E.R.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where did you get shot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the leg.
QUADE: For now, medevac mission accomplished.
QUADE: Coming up, life and death at the combat support hospital.
COL. CINDY CLAGETT, DOCTOR, U.S. ARMY: He's in tough shape. He's in the fight of his life.
QUADE: We continue with the wounded warriors on their medical journey.
QUADE (voice-over): Welcome to the CSH, combat support hospital, Baghdad, inside the Green Zone.
SPC. MARK SPEARS, U.S. ARMY: Came off the helicopter, he didn't have a heart rhythm at all. His pulse was -- you know, he was shot in the head.
QUADE: Army Specialist Mark Spears takes over CPR from the flight medic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We do chest compressions to circulate blood, hopefully restore that pulse.
QUADE: This is the E.R. Unlike the TV show, it's real. All too real for 23-year-old Spears.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We keep track of all the Americans who died on our shift while we worked. All the little dots are American soldiers who were killed here in Iraq.
QUADE: He also marks the attacks on his hospital.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I used to keep track of how many times we got bombed with lines, but we get bombed a lot more than we get dots, and it would probably have been around, like 10 times if I kept track of that. The Green Zone is a pretty big target for the Iraqis. They like to shoot at us.
We've had a couple of mortar rounds hit the hospital, but as you can see it's pretty well fortified. It's always in the back of your mind, you know. Every time you go outside a mortar round could hit right by you. There's nothing you can do about it. We try to do our job the best we can, hope for the best.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Three hours, head injury, right hand.
QUADE: For doctors like Captain Suti Bowes (ph), the work here is raw, dirty, gut-wrenching. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of them are explosive sort of injuries like improvised explosive devices or car bombs or bombs in anything, basically: soda cans, cars, dead animals, whatever.
Blood and the guts, you're kind of trained for that as a doctor and you're ready for it. But what's different here is there's another level of attachment to your patients, which are the soldiers. Because you know, they're like all of us. They left the states. They're hoping to go back.
QUADE: And the wounded keep coming and coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We try to save everybody who comes in. So I mean, of course, it's frustrating when you lose people, but you get a little comfort in the fact that we save a lot more people than we lose.
QUADE: It never gets easier, just part of the job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You bring in a patient, and they're hanging onto life. We're ready for it.
QUADE: One of those patients hanging on is a soldier in intensive care, far from home, far from family.
JASON MOORE, U.S. ARMY: We're all they've got. Nobody goes home, never (ph). So as long as he's here, we're going to be here with him.
QUADE: Squad leader Jason Moore is talking about his sergeant, Andy Brown, in a coma.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heading out, you know, normal patrols, just out looking for the bad guys, trying to, you know, keep it safe for the airborne, you know. Hidden IED. And it was a bad one, a bad one waiting for us, and it went off. It did a lot of damage to the vehicle. The vehicle doesn't even exist anymore. It looked like the vehicle had just been messed with, with a kid with a can opener.
But we got -- we got him out. Actually had to take another Humvee and rip the doors off with a chain, because they were blown inside the vehicle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Make a hole, coming through.
QUADE: From the time of the blast it only took 15 minutes to get Andy to the CASH. Andy's nurse, Major Lisa Snyder (ph), is tending to his wounds while his buddies hover.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They really literally saved his life when they first came in here, as far as giving the blood that he needed. Because otherwise, he would have died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andy's doctor, Colonel Cindy Clagett (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They can't really do anything else except worry, fret, pray, and give blood. And they're -- I mean, they're here, 24 hour a day vigil. They're sleeping in corners on the floor or not sleeping more often than not. They barely have time to eat. They know he's in a coma, but they lean down and talk to him. They touch him.
QUADE: It's Andy's band of brothers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We donate blood or whatever. We do whatever we can possibly, you know, to support him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's like a brother to us. We know that he would do the same for us. We're going to do all we can to help him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's in tough shape. He's in the fight of his life. He would be what I would call as critically ill as anybody could possibly get.
QUADE: Days later 22-year-old Sergeant Andy Brown died, but not alone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even when things started to look like they were just -- just not going to be able to turn around for him, his unit, still they kind of stood a vigil. Again, these were guys who in their regular job have to go out and be on patrol and get shot at and face the same injuries that this kid did. Even though he's here, half a world away from his family, he had a family with him.
QUADE: Coming up...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of the time, you know, we're under attack.
LT. COL. DON JENKINS, SURGEON, USAF: We don't stop what we're doing just because of this attack.
QUADE: ... we'll show you the fight to save lives in the most dangerous place on earth.
QUADE: At the Air Force theater hospital, Balad Air Base (ph), Marine Corporal Chris Thesmeyer (ph) is taken off the medevac. A mine took both his legs. He's rushed into E.R.
He's conscious. Although Chris made it through the golden hour...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: X-ray, X-ray.
QUADE: ... this will be his second operation since wounded just five hours ago.
JENKINS: The Navy surgeons at that forward operating base saved his life. And believe it or not, he's quite fortunate to be here with us. QUADE: In the O.R., alarm red, incoming. We're under attack by mortars or rockets. And this is the most frequently attacked base in Iraq. Despite that, surgeons continue working on Chris.
JENKINS: We've built up as best we can around those operating theaters with big concrete barriers and sandbags and that sort of thing. So it's still alarming.
Those folks that aren't scrubbed in sterile gear do have the opportunity, if they can get to their gear safely, to put on their helmet and their flak vest. We don't stop what we're doing just because of this attack.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris, you're doing great, buddy. Chris, you're doing great.
QUADE: Chris is then taken to ICU, where we meet up again with Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell. He's in critical condition, in and out of consciousness.
Alarm red again.
CAPT. DEBRA NICHOLS, ICU NURSE, USAF: It means that there's imminent danger. Most of the time, you know, we're under attack.
QUADE: Maxwell's nurse stays by his side.
NICHOLS: You can't leave them, because they're critical patients. So you have to stay at the bedside and go ahead and perform your duties just like, you know, if you were not in a code red.
This is heavy and it's hot, and I -- and I can't wait to get out of it, because it hurts my back.
QUADE: Alarm red finally over. But their work here today has just begun.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Baghdad is bringing two -- two helicopters full.
QUADE: Full of casualties from two bombs exploding in Baghdad's Green Zone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just take a deep breath. You know what you've got to do. Manpower, roll them into the E.R. as the need be, as we deem it, critical or not critical. And then we'll go from there. Everybody ready?
QUADE: The medevacs arrive. Patient after patient. This is what's called a mass casualty. The medevacs bring more, and more. And they race to the E.R.
Air Force medic Sergeant Jacqueline Horton (ph) tries to ease them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When they come in off the chopper especially, they're disoriented. And we tell them over and over again that we're going to stay with you, that you're not alone. Remind them that we're there with them. And ask them if they need more procaine (ph). We tell them exactly what we're doing to them so there's no surprises, because of the fear, the magnitude of the fear that they're experiencing, they unknown.
That's the only comforting thing that those parents back home have, is to think that somebody is over here talking to them.
QUADE: That comforting personal attention is evident at the next level of care, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lower. Lower.
QUADE: The CASF, Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're like a medical air terminal.
QUADE: For the wounded, this is the last stop in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prepare to lift. Lift. Prepare to lower. Lower. Make sure that he's even on the splinter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We get them here. We get them medicated and get them comfortable.
QUADE: Here we meet Gunnery Sergeant Mel Greer (ph), shot in the leg, ambushed in the dangerous city of Ramadi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically from my ankle down, I can't feel my foot whatsoever.
QUADE: This is his platoon under fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were out on a vehicle patrol and stopped to do a vehicle checkpoint. And we had some insurgents come around the corner and open up with automatic weapons and small fires.
QUADE: And this is Mel's combat video.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gunnery, he's hit in the right leg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Automatic weapons fire is less than a tenth of a second between rounds. It hit my pistol and hit my leg, knocked me down and hell's fury just unleashed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it goes, good shot.
QUADE: He's taken fire countless times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just that night prior, I'd only gotten about three hours of sleep in the last 30 hours. We had gone out for a security run, and the box car (ph) got hit by three IEDs and then small arms fire, and less than 12 hours we were right back out and got hit again. So being aggressive. QUADE: Mel and other patients must wait here for the next plane out of country. Tech Sergeant George Denby, an emergency medic for 18 years, checks on them.
TECH SGT. GEORGE DENBY, EMERGENCY MEDIC, USAF: Need a blanket or anything?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm good.
DENBY: All right.
QUADE: He works closely with Master Sergeant Nancy Peck (ph), an emergency medic for 21 years. It's hard, even for these seasoned vets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just pull at your heart strings, their sacrifice. They're humble. They don't want to go back home. They want to go back to the fight, back to the unit.
Some of these patients that we get here, they haven't bathed in days. They've eaten out of a box. They don't have pillows to sleep on.
QUADE: The medics try everything to keep them comfortable.
DENBY: We have some patients with some pretty serious patients right next to them. And you're right next to another patient. So now you have to not only worry about your problems, but you're worrying about the guy next to you. So we try to do everything we can to keep their minds off of that.
QUADE: The singing doesn't tempt PFC Matthew Soldberg (ph). The 19-year-old Marine has trouble speaking after an IED exploded near him.
DENBY: We're kind of used to that stuff after being here for awhile. You just kind of get over it and do your job.
QUADE: Then, alarm red, incoming.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Got your gear?
QUADE: In the middle of all this, more wounded arrive. Among them Lance Corporal Chris Allen, injured by a rocket-propelled grenade near Fallujah. Like all patients, Chris is checked for hidden explosives, then checked medically.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm doing pretty good, much better. I saw you guys the first time.
QUADE: But flashbacks are bothering him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're all the time. Usually when I'm sleeping they come back.
QUADE: The touches of home here, courtesy of the medics, help Chris.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The little flag is cool (ph). I love this one. This is going to be with me all the time now, so whenever I get down I can just think of it and realize what I'm fighting for. And a little picture that says thank you.
QUADE: Coming up, the race against time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have about 65 patients for seven people to take care of.
CAPT. ASSY YACOUB, CRITICAL CARE DOCTOR, USAF: We have to keep them alive because we can have the best doctors back home. But if we can't take them there, they can't do anything for them back home.
QUADE: A rare inside look at the plane that will take them out of Iraq.
QUADE: While the patients are being prepped, flight medics are prepping the plane. They transform a C-141...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is (UNINTELLIGIBLE), actually.
QUADE: ... from tactical to practical. From cargo craft to flying hospital.
MAJ. MARK NAGEL, FLIGHT MEDIC, USAF: Yes, we have about 65 patients for seven people to take care of, so we'll be busy tonight. But the patients will be glad to get home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is for emergency oxygen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This isn't even our job yet.
NAGEL: It's part of our job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's part of our job.
NAGEL: Healthcare providers, slash, construction workers.
QUADE: Back at the CASF, or medical air terminal...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready? Lift. Lift.
QUADE: ... the patients like Gunnery Sergeant Mel Greer (ph) are ready to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My country will take care of me, no matter what.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Lift, lift. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it. Good job, guys.
QUADE: Past the tank barriers and on to the next level of care, the plane.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Come to me, come to me. Come to me. Come to me.
QUADE: The flight medics are now ready.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move, move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully I'll return to my Marines. My wife probably doesn't want to hear that.
QUADE: Litter patients like Mel first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir, for your service. We really appreciate it. Good luck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to rack him. Ready? Rack. Watch his foot. Watch his foot, watch his foot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch his foot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Doing all right, Mel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Doing good, Bud.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye-bye.
QUADE: Next ambulatories like PFC Matthew Soldberg (ph). Matthew has a speech problem from a head injury.
Then Lance Corporal Chris Allen, hit by an RPG. Chris needs a little help boarding.
Last on, critical patients from intensive care. Marine Corporal Chris Thesmeyer (ph). A mine took both his legs. Chris is coming straight from surgery.
Then Lieutenant Colonel Tim Maxwell, who took shrapnel to the head from a mortar. Maxwell was in the ICU during alarm red.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three.
DENBY: You look at some of these injuries, and it just punches you right in the stomach. You feel sorry, but you're happy that they're getting out of here. You're happy for them. They're going. They're closer to seeing their families and going home. QUADE: This is the last thing the wounded warriors will see in Iraq.
The plane goes dark for tactical takeoff. This is light discipline, only low red light until they clear Iraqi airspace. For those who can, vest and helmet in case of incoming fire. This is hostile territory.
The tactical takeoff spirals to avoid any ground fire hurts Matthew's head.
The flight medics go to work. Using chemical glow sticks or tiny lights, they squeeze between patients and litters. Cargo light shines briefly in back. Matthew uses it to climb into a litter to rest his head.
After clearing Iraqi airspace, lights on. Chris also tries to get comfortable. Heavy flak vests come off. Mel is restless. Medics are working on patients beside and above him, climbing up the stacks of litters around him. He worries they'll step on his injured leg and foot. Accidentally, they do. It's difficult work under difficult conditions.
YACOUB: We have to keep them alive. Because we can have the best doctors back home. If we can't take them there, we keep them alive on the way, they can't do anything for them back home.
QUADE: About six hours later, touchdown. Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The patients are off-loaded.
Chris looks around at the rain, the cold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got it.
QUADE: Matthew wakes up. And Mel is tucked in against the freezing temperatures.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move.
QUADE: Next stop, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the next level of care.
They arrive at the biggest military hospital outside the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How you doing, Mel?
QUADE: Mel is headed straight to more surgery.
Next Matthew. And in socks, his boots still in Iraq, Chris.
In the O.R., Mel is prepped. The surgeon scrubs in. He examines Mel's leg wounds. MAJ. TIM WOODS, SURGEON, USAF: He's lucky it didn't hit the artery. That's a bigger risk for infection, so we're trying to minimize his risk of infection.
QUADE: The speed through all of the levels of care from the battlefield helped.
WOODS: Our air bag system right now is unbelievable. We hear what happens in the nets (ph) pretty much. And within 24 to 48 hours these guys are getting into our hospital, and we're having to take care of them.
QUADE: A half-hour later...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open your eyes. Can you open your eyes? Hey, we're all done. We're all done. You did great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Done. Are you in any pain right now?
QUADE: Chris, meanwhile, is getting his wounds cleaned.
LT. ROB BIRON, NURSE, USAF: They've already did an X-ray after they took it out to make sure all the shrapnel is out. Because sometimes shrapnel is left in people and actually, it does more harm to go in to it to get it than it does getting it. And a lot of times the body will push it out on its own.
QUADE: Mel rolls in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is your pain doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not bad (ph).
QUADE: Even groggy, he's still a Marine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. Thanks for the ride.
They took off the little splint that was down there today so I can actually play with my foot a little bit.
QUADE: But Mel still has no feeling in his foot. We'll see if doctors at the next level of care can do anything about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's amazing. I was hit on Saturday and each level of care that I've moved out to. I think it's Tuesday now, and it's -- I've already had a second surgery. I've already been taken care of, already been cleaned. I'm in Germany and getting ready to go home already. It's just amazing.
COSTELLO: An update now. Here's what happened to some of the wounded warriors you've just seen.
Lieutenant Tim Maxwell, who took shrapnel to the head, is undergoing physical and speech therapy. Corporal Chris Thesmeyer (ph), who lost his legs to a mine plans to leave the corps and get a Ph.D.
Lance Corporal Chris Allen took shrapnel in his leg near Fallujah. He's now back at Camp Pendleton, California.
Private First Class Matthew Soldberg (ph) is also at Camp Pendleton. His speech is back to normal.
And Gunnery Sergeant Mel Greer (ph), who's had four operations on his foot, says he feels guilty he's not back in Iraq.
Thank you for joining us on this Memorial Day. I'm Carol Costello. Good night.
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