Talking Proud Archives --- Military

Medevacs & Medics, Angels of Mercy

By Ed Marek, editor

March 17, 2012, addendum June 1, 2012

Addendum: Since doing this story earlier this year, I came across another similar instance of a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) impaled in a trooper’s body, in this case a Marine. On January 12, 2012, C/1-171 Aviation, New Mexico National Guard, received a call to pick up a 3 year-old Afghan girl suffering from a gunshot wound. The medevac crew kicked into action and arrived at the site. It was not a young girl who was injured, but a Marine with an unexploded RPG embedded in his leg all the way up to his abdomen. Military guidelines authorize not tending to such a patient because of the risks associated with the live ordnance, but...


As was the case discussed below in the main story, this ordnance was live and posed a danger to the entire medieval crew and the medics and doctors waiting for their patient. Capt. Kevin Doo, the mission commander, polled his crew if they agreed to take the patient aboard or leave him where he was. They all voted to bring him aboard, so that’s what they did, even though they knew their aircraft had about 360 gallons of aviation fuel in its tanks just below the patient. The photo shows the crew brining their ward aboard. The escort helicopters were advised of the situation and told to keep their distance during the return flight. The skipper fired up his engines and made it to FOB Edinburgh in 24 minutes. The minimum essential medical crew and an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team awaited their arrival and took the patient to a safe zone away from the main medical facilities. Lt. Commander James Gennari, the department head, Surgical Co. B, 2nd Supply Battalion, saw the wounds were life threatening. Working with the EOD team he and his medics removed the RPG and the EOD team got it out of there, the medics closed up the wounds, put the patient back on the same helicopter, and whizzed him off to Bastion Hospital for further care. On the way to Bastion, the ventilator failed and was not pumping oxygen to the patient, so the medics fed him oxygen manually, bringing him back to a stable condition. All hands were safe, and the patient, Marine Lance Cpl. Winder Perez, USMC, survived.

Live RPG impaled in his abdomen, Army medical team saves his life

A soldier in a Humvee convoy in Afghanistan is impaled by an RPG that fails to detonate. The unexploded RPG is stuck in his abdomen with the fins sticking out. The medic and his brothers took care of him anyway to stop the bleeding during the heat of battle. Others are wounded. The medevac bird arrives and discovers the patient has live ordnance inside. The rules say this patient cannot come aboard. Without hesitation, the medevac crew uploads him, calls in a critical patient with shrapnel wounds. The receiving surgeon at the FST cuts away the uniform and sees fins sticking out. He's no ordnance expert, but knows ordnance when he sees it. The rules say get the patient out of there and list him as expected to die. To hell with all that, the surgeon forms a volunteer team, gets an EOD expert over there pronto, and together they pull out the RPG and get it to a sandbagged area. End result is Spc. Channing Moss survives. What's an FST? We'll talk about that too.


Gina Cavallaro, a staff writer for the Military Times, has written an incredible story about an American soldier impaled by a live RPG in Afghanistan and is alive to tell about today. The title of the story is appropriately, "Do or Die." It comes with a video. We commend the story and the video to your attention.

Richard Halicks and Mike Luckovich, also wrote a good report about this event for
The Atlanta Journal Constitution, as did Ruth Reiss, reporting for ABC News on September 22, 2007.

We'll get our oar in as well, combining bits and pieces picked up from a variety of reports. All at once, you will be exposed to the rigors of battle, the courage of our men and women who fight, the unwavering loyalty among those who fight together, and the unparalleled dedication to them of our military medevacs and medical teams. This is about as uplifting as it gets.

First, we will discuss the "Do or Die" events surrounding the soldier impaled by an enemy RPG. This will give us an overview of the Forward Surgical Team (FST) and the series of tough decisions that have to be made from the time a soldier is badly wounded until the time the FST can work on him and get him off to a higher level hospital. Second, we will review the FST concept in a little more detail. The FST is a genuinely fascinating and heartening endeavor, relatively, and rapidly evolving. Our hat is off to all who have played a role in its growth.


Spc. Channing Moss, far right, stands on a hilltop in Afghanistan in February 2006 with his Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, 10th Mountain Division, A/2-87 Infantry, from left, Sgt. Harold Jarrell, Spc. Collin Reynolds, Cpl. Kirill Tikhonenkov, Spc. Justin Randall holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and Pfc. John O'Brien. Moss was wounded the following month when, during an ambush, he was impaled with an RPG. Photo courtesy of Moss family. Presented by Military Times.

The wounded soldier was Spc. Channing Moss, 23, Gainesville, Georgia, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, otherwise known as A/2-87 Infantry. It's motto, appropriately, "We conquer power and mountains." The place was southeastern Afghanistan. The day was March 16, 2006.


This is a Humvee patrol consisting of at least six Humvees. These are 2-27 Infantry, 25th Infantry Division soldiers taking a brief break on the way to a mission, Orgun-E, Afghanistan, April 05, 2004. It gives you an idea what it all looks like. Photo credit: Spc. Gul A Alisan, USA. Presented by the 25th Infantry Division.

Moss was riding in a Humvee, position number 5 in a convoy of five Humvees near the Pakistan border when enemy forces ambushed it with small arms fire and RPGs. This photo provides a good feel for the environment in which our convoy operated.


Here you see Cpl. Jason Williams, USMC, manning a 50 caliber machine gun from inside the turret of a Humvee in Iraq. Photo credit: Brennan Linsley, AP. Presented by Eyeballing Iraq Kill and Maim.

Moss was manning the Mk-19 turret machine gun on this Humvee, similar to the arrangement shown above. Use this photo to envision what happened. On the left, you can barely make out the head of the driver. Then you see the gunner, who is exposed. Next is a passenger, in our case the truck commander, and you can see his windshield.

An enemy RPG came through the passenger side window and struck Moss in the left pelvic region, lodging in his abdomen, bored all the way through to the right thigh. We'll return to this shortly.

We need to stop here to cover kill zone tactics for such convoys, and the RPG.

Kevin Sites, writing "Kill Zone" for his web site, called "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone," had the directions given by Moss' platoon leader, Lt. Mariani:

"He had made the speech almost every day, every time 1st Platoon went outside the wire. Lt. William Mariani (Moss' platoon leader, shown here) could do it in his sleep.

" 'If you're not in the kill zone, don't go in the kill zone. If you're in the kill zone, drive through the kill zone. If the vehicle in front of you is disabled in the kill zone, push that vehicle out of the kill zone. If there are injured in that vehicle, drive to opposite side of where they're taking contact, evacuate the injured from the vehicle and move out of the kill zone.'"

Keep those instructions in mind.

Let's now talk a little about the RPG. It was designed to be a tank killer.



These are very useful graphics, presented by "How Stuff Works." The top graphic shows the entire firing system, shoulder mounted, fires something like a rifle. We want to focus your attention on just the grenade, as shown in detail as the warhead on the second graphic. This is the kill mechanism that fires out of the launcher.


Lt. Mariani's convoy was ambushed by enemy on a ridgeline above the convoy, out in the middle of nowhere. The enemy employed small arms and RPG fire. The fire was intense. This photo shows a place known to the troops as "Ambush Valley." It is representative of the environment in which our convoy was operating. In the case of this photo, a convoy of paratroopers had left Zerok Combat Outpost on its way to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Orgun-E, November 6, 2007. Orgun-E is about 20 miles from where our convoy was ambushed. The soldiers here were assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment. Photo credit: Spc. Micah E. Clare, US Army. Presented by DefenseLink.

The enemy ambushed our convoy from a ridgeline above. An RPG barely missed Lt. Mariani's Humvee, who was in the number one position. His driver, Pfc. Cory Rambo, floored it and got about 200 meters out of there, out of the kill zone. Then Mariani learned an Afghan vehicle was stuck in the kill zone, was still receiving fire, and already one Afghan was dead.

Staff Sgt. Jose Rodriguez, shown here later receiving the Bronze Star with valor for this incident, immediately set up a mortar tube and directed counter-fire at the ridgeline. We understand others in the platoon laid down suppressive fire as well.

Mariani then decided to go back into the kill zone to help the stricken Afghan vehicle. He, his driver and crew headed in there, they evacuated eight Afghans and raced out of the kill zone again.

In the meantime, three RPGs hit Moss' vehicle, which was bringing up the rear.

The first RPG exploded on the truck commander's door (passenger side door). The second and third RPGs hit the front of the Humvee, but did not explode.


We'll go back to the photo we presented earlier to help you imagine what happened. Staff Sgt. Eric Wynn was sitting in the passenger seat, functioning as the truck commander. Miraculously, while the RPG exploded against the door, it did not injure Wynn, or anyone else in the vehicle. Of the next two RPGs that hit the front of the truck, one struck the window in front of Wynn. We are not sure what happened to the other one, but to our knowledge, it caused no damage.

When the RPG hit that bit of window you see on the passenger side, for reasons known only to God, the warhead broke off and ricocheted off the window on the outside to another direction away from the Humvee. We do not believe it exploded. However, the booster, stabilizing fins and sustainer motor held together and came through the window.

This projectile passed right across Wynn's face (Wynn shown here receiving the Purple Heart for this incident), slicing off the tip of his nose and tearing off part of his upper lip. It then struck the gunner, Moss, on his left side, passed through his pelvic wing, through his abdomen, and lodged inside his body all the way to his right thigh. The stabilizer fins were outside the body, sticking out his left side near the stomach region. The RPG that hit Moss did not explode. Moss has said he smelled smoke, looked down at his abdominal area, and saw the smoke was him. Moss was ready to return fire until he realized he had been hit.

To our knowledge no one at the scene knew that the warhead had broken off. That would not be determined until later.

Wynn, bleeding from the nose and with his upper lip hanging loosely, radioed Lt. Mariani, told him what happened, advised that Moss had an RPG sticking out of his body, and held Moss' hand. Moss would later say:

"He didn't even drop the radio ... He kept telling me, 'Don't worry about me and concentrate on yourself.'"

The platoon medic was Sgt. Jared Angell, known as "Doc," shown here later receiving the Bronze Star with valor for this incident. Out where these men were, Angell was the only doc in town. Luckily, Angell was riding in Moss' Humvee. They were good friends.

Angell responded immediately, pulling Moss to safety inside the vehicle, covering his bleeding with everything he had, giving him a shot of morphine, and taping down the RPG to stabilize it.

Moss told Angell he didn't want to die out there, and Angell assured him no such thing was going to happen on his watch.

Another crewmember aboard the Humvee jumped up to the machine gun and Wynn, holding his face together with bandages, ordered the driver, Spc. Matthew Savole, to get out of the kill zone, so Savole maneuvered the Humvee into a safe position.

Somewhere amidst all this, the call went out for Medevac. Lt. Mariani took some liberties with his call, and decided not to tell the medevacs about the RPG lodged in Moss, fearing they would refuse to take live ordnance aboard. Mariani knew taking live ordnance aboard a medevac was against Army regulation, even if it were lodged in a soldier.


Army Sgt. Dana Perdue, a flight medic for the 159th Medical Company (Air Ambulance,) keeps his eye on the engines of a Blackhawk helicopter during preflight checks at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, August 13, 2006. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Mark Watson. Presented by Defend America.

A 159th Medical Co. Blackhawk medevac helicopter from Forward Operating Base Salerno prepared to launch, but was held for 15 minutes until commanders could assess how hot the zone was the medevac would enter. They gave clearance and the crew lifted off for the ten minute rush to the scene.

Just a moment to highlight the 159th. Its lineage extends back to WWII ground-based service in France and in four Korean War Campaigns. In 1964, it switched to air ambulance service, starting with the historic H-21 in Vietnam, and then switched to the UH-1H. In Vietnam from 1968-1972, it evacuated tens of thousands patients, and came to be known as the Long Binh Dustoffs. It has served in Europe, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan since. These men and women have been around.

CWO2 Jorge Correa commanded this Blackhawk medevac. Not knowing what to expect, he told his crew to "lock and load." His crew had been told there were two wounded, and that's about it.


Blackhawk medevac landing, Afghanistan. Presented by Military Times video.

The platoon on the ground popped smoke to mark the landing site. As the Blackhawk approached, the crew saw the rest of the soldiers were still engaged in combat. They also saw an Apache attack helicopter in front of them to provide cover. As a result, CWO2 Jeremy Smith, piloting the UH-60, landed a few meters away from the smoke marker. The airborne medic, Sgt. John Collier, jumped out and ran to the scene.


This is a proud photo of the Blackhawk crew that came to pick up Moss, from left to right: Warrant Officer Jeremy Smith, Staff Sgt. Christian Roberts, Spc. John Collier and Chief Warrant Officer Jorge Correa. Photo credit: Iowa State Daily

Somewhere in the midst of all this, the Rodriguez mortar operation was having very good effect and the enemy broke off the attack. In the meantime, the rest of the platoon had set up a protective cordon around Moss' damaged vehicle. And then a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) led by the company commander either had already arrived or was on its way to gain control of the area and expand the security zone. They took over the ridgeline.

Collier spotted an Afghan soldier who indicated with his fingers that there were four wounded, not two. One was missing his hands. Another was missing the back of his scalp. Then there was Sgt. Wynn, who was missing the front of his nose and had his upper lip hanging loose. Finally, there was Moss who appeared at first glance to have a dislocated hip and a stomach injury. So, perhaps with the exception of Wynn, there were three seriously wounded soldiers.

Staff Sergeant Christian Roberts, the crewchief, arrived and recalls the scene this way:

"I walked up to see what he (Collier) was going to need, and that's when I noticed the soldier. At the time, it looked like a pipe sticking out of his stomach."

Collier went back to the aircraft to brief Correa.

Collier told Correa that there was a live RPG lodged in a soldier's side. This meant that the medevac crew, if it were to take him aboard, would be bringing live ordnance aboard as well. The second thing Collier told him was they had to get this injured soldier to the hospital right away or he would die. Collier recalls it this way:

"All I thought was, 'If we don't help this guy, he's going to die. We're going to do our job and not let this guy die.'"

Collier also told the skipper that they had a total of four wounded, two more than originally expected. This meant the Blackhawk would now be fully loaded. There was some consideration given to leaving a few aircrew behind to gain space and lighten the load, but that idea was thrown out quickly.

Correa briefed his entire crew about the ordnance and the risks it might explode. They all agreed to take the risk. Not only was this going to be a risk to the aircrew and the helicopter, but they were going to take all the patients aboard and they too would be exposed to the risk. Collier recollects:

"Everyone knew we were going to take a person with a rocket and everyone accepted that we wanted to save the life of an American soldier. We didn't leave anyone behind (from the aircrew) because we were worried about our own safety."

Some were skeptical about whether Moss could make it. He had already passed the so-called "Golden Hour."

The military has a term for unexploded ordnance: "UXO." Moss has said he was worried that the platoon might set him aside as UXO and leave him there until he died. He would have bled to death in short order. Then the UXO could be neutralized. In the meantime, the other patients, who had tough injuries, could be gotten to the hospital. That concept never entered the picture, though it was on Moss' mind.

Moss' colleagues knew that Moss had an RPG lodged in his side, and assumed it was live and could explode at any moment. Moss' sergeant urged him to stay still, knowing that the RPG fin that they could see had to remain stabilized. This was not an easy chore for Moss' colleagues, as Moss was bleeding badly, and was very uncomfortable, in some instances described as "combative," though Moss has said he was "pretty cool."

Angell, the medic, felt good about what he had done to slow the bleeding, and believed he bought his buddy enough time to get to surgery, though there were plenty of uncertainties.

Roberts felt this way:

"We are not gonna leave a U.S. soldier to die in the middle of Afghanistan."

Co-pilot Jeremy Smith recalled the scene this way:

"We all said, 'Yeah, let's get him on board and let's get outta here.'"

Correa has said:

"There was no hesitation."

We need to pause again. Correa's words hold great meaning.

The words "No hesitation" stand as the mantra of those in the medevac profession, a mantra that dates back to the Vietnam War.

They trace back to the Vietnam War and a medevac pilot named
Major Charles L. "Combat" Kelly, shown here in an artist's presentation. Combat Kelly is viewed by most as the founder and inspirational leader of the world reknowned "Dust Offs," the men and women of Army military medical evacuation helicopters, the air ambulances.

He was fiercely proud of the medevac mission and resolutely determined to save the lives of fellows wounded in combat.

Major Kelly's creed was this, and it was the title for an article we did in August 2004:

“No compromise. No rationalization. No Hesitation. Fly the mission. Now!"

Kelly commanded the original Dust Off unit in Vietnam, the famed 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance) that arrived in Vietnam in April 1962. He set a very high standard of conduct that medevacs meet to this day. Vietnam was Kelly's third war. Legend has it he had a brush with a court martial somewhere along the line, but that didn't seem to bother this warrior.

In the tradition that had been set by Combat Kelly, CWO2 Correa and his crew had no hesitation. Moss was brought aboard on a stretcher, the crew gave the other wounded their seats, and the skipper hit the throttle and got his Blackhawk moving at top speed out of there and to a medical facility. We understand that the pilots can really rev these things up when they want to, or have to. To our knowledge, no one aboard that aircraft knew the warhead was not attached to the projectile inside Moss.


Orgun-E Base, Camp Harriman, Afghanistan. Courtesy of Google Earth.

There was no time to get to a full blown hospital, so they went to the battalion aid station, a FST, known as Orgun-E Base, about 20 miles away. Orgun-E Base is in eastern Afghanistan and was one of the largest bases among many along the border with Pakistan.

The medevac crew radioed ahead to Orgun-E, advised they had a critical patient, blood pressure dropping, heart rate dangerously high, but no mention of the RPG, just saying it was a shrapnel wound.

Major John Oh, 36, was the Army general surgeon on duty with the 759th FST. There was also an orthopedic surgeon aboard, Major Kevin Kirk.


RPG rod with fin sticking out from Moss' side. Presented by Military Times video.

The helicopter and medical crews brought Moss into the operating room, the medics started tearing away his uniform at the site of the wound, and then came the huge surprise to those in the FST. They saw the fins sticking out. While none of them had ever seen a RPG before, they knew if it had fins, it had to have ordnance at the other end.

Major Oh instantly was confronted with a decision similar to that presented to CWO2 Correa. The FST crews had practiced for this kind of situation previously. For starters, the patient should not have been brought by helicopter with other patients aboard. Next, the patient should not have been brought into the FST. Instead, the patient should have been kept outside in a sandbagged area, listed as "expectant," to wit, expected to die, while doctors worked on the other patients in triage style, leaving the expectant for last. Moss likely would have died in that scenario, and everyone knew it.


Major Oh, the surgeon, some time later, reliving the moment. Presented by Military Times video.

Major Oh decided to keep him in the operating room, hollered out warnings to everyone, called for volunteers to stay and help, a bunch raised their hands and together, they went to work. Oh stood with Kirk and three surgical staff, and ordered the rest out of the FST.

The surgical team outfitted themselves in body armor and helmets, and called for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD). They were lucky. Sgt. 1st Class Dan Brown, an EOD expert, happened to be on base and would be on his way over.


X-ray showing RPG inside Moss. Presented by Military Times video.

Thank God for the X-ray, though in the case of Orgun-E, the machine was not working well, and it took three tries to get a decent image. The X-rays showed that the warhead and fuse were not inside Moss. EOD concluded it had most likely broken off when the RPG struck the Humvee. Nonetheless, Sgt. Brown, the EOD specialist, told everyone that the detonator was still attached to the device inside Moss, it was sensitive to electric current, and could explode and cause damage, not catastrophic damage to the facility, but it would kill the patient and cause serious damage to the limbs of the surgical team.

Moss already had lost a lot of blood, but was somewhat responsive. Blood pressure was at 20, and we have seen one report that said his heart had stopped. The team was not able to do chest compression for fear of setting off the explosive. Dr. Oh had to get an IV in there and get some epinephrine into him to get his heart pumping and his blood pressure up. That worked. They then started fluids and blood. They were now ready to operate.


This is a photo of a forward surgical team and 1-503rd medics work to stabilize a critically wounded soldier at Orgun-E in November 2007. It is not of the team from Dr. Oh's 759th Forward Surgical Team. The aid station is often the first stop for injured Coalition Soldiers evacuated from combat. The team’s job is to perform surgery if necessary, stabilize the patient for transport and prepare them for higher echelons of care at Bagram Airfield or Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Daniel Bellis, USAF. Presented by Soldier's Angels Germany.

The surgical team decided that the projectile was coming out the same way it went in, and that Sgt. Brown was going to be a key member of the effort. Basically, the surgeons would cut and Brown would pull.

The surgical team went in and saw that Moss' internal damage was extensive, intestines shredded, pelvic bone crushed, large loss of blood. Dr. Oh's notes said this:

"We cut down over the right side, over the business end of the rocket, realize that this thing dragged dirt, his web belt and clothes all the way through his abdomen/pelvis. EOD confirms that the warhead is not attached, and propellant mostly expelled.

"We do midline incision ... and EOD starts sawing off the left end of the UXO. We then pull the thing out, from left to right, through the abdomen ... multiple holes in the bowel, took out a good amount of his pelvic bones, took out part of his large intestine."


Sgt. Brown on the left holding on to RPG while surgeons cut away. Brown had earlier cut off the fins. Presented by Military Times video.

Brown took responsibility for holding on to the RPG and, in coordination with the surgical team, gently pulled it out along the entry path while the surgeons cut away around it, all the while working to steady the rod. We understand that Brown, clad in his EOD garb, pulled it out with the detonator pointed at him. The most difficult incision was the one adjacent to Moss' right thigh, where the tip of the projectile had come to rest. We also understand the surgical team was operating not far from Moss' heart.


Sgt. Brown holding on to RPG and pulling it out slowly (yellow arrow points to RPG) while surgeons continue working. Presented by Military Times video.

The surgical team cut, Brown gently pulled, and slowly but surely the thing came out.


The RPG has just been pulled out completely, and Sgt. Brown starts moving right away to get it out of the operating room and to a sandbagged area. Presented by Military Times video.

Like he had just delivered a baby, Sgt. Brown cradled the projectile and got that bad boy outta there to a sandbagged area.


RPG removed and sitting in sandbagged area outside. Presented by Military Times video.

The next orders of business were to clean Moss' insides as well as they could, patch him up and get him to a hospital for the next set of medical procedures. That was done. He went first by helicopter to the Combat Support Hospital (CSH) at Bagram Air Base, near Kabul, then was medevac'd by C-17 transport jet to the Landstuhl Hospital in Germany. Moss said he woke up in Germany, and asked:

"Am I alive?"

He remained in Germany for only a few days, and was medevac'd by jet aircraft out to Walter Reed in Washington. Moss was wounded on March 16, 2006. He arrived at Walter Reed on March 21, was sitting up in bed by April 20, was sitting in a wheelchair and going to physical therapy by May 7, and was released as an outpatient on May 17. He underwent four major surgeries, and had more to go.

As an aside, the medical process from the time of attack looks like this. If the patient can make it, take him to a CSH. If not, take him to the FST. From the FST, the patient goes to a CSH. From there it's off to the Army Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, and then to the US, either to Walter Reed in Washington, DC, or to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. In an interview with Army medical people, Susan Dentzer said this:

"Along the evacuation chain, their wounds are repeatedly cleaned out and dead tissue removed, in surgery ... That's the way to prevent a potentially fatal infection until the wounds can be closed and so-called definitive care provided back in the United States."


Dr. Oh received the Soldier's Medal at the Carl Darnall Army Medical Center, Ft. Hood, Texas, January 25, 2007, for his actions in the Moss case. The Soldier's Medal is awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. Often, the medal is awarded to soldiers who risk their lives to save other people. In terms of precedence, it is above the Bronze Star and below the Distinguished Flying Cross, a most meaningful medal to be sure. Photo credit: Jon Connor. Presented by the US Army.

Dr. Oh, some time after the surgery, said this:

"You know, I was scared. I was scared shitless, basically. I've never been so scared in my whole life. And then you look at this guy, and you say, 'There's no way I'm gonna let this guy die. It just can't happen. Can't happen."


Army surgeon Maj. John Oh, bottom left, and EOD team leader Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Brown, bottom middle, pose in front of the Medical Aid Station at Orgun-E with the rest of the medical team that saved Pfc. Channing Moss. Photo courtesy of Major Kevin Kirk, USA. Presented by Military Times video.


Pfc. Channing Moss, left, with his wife Lorena and daughter Ariana. Photo credit: James J. Lee, Military Times staff.

Richard Halicks and Mike Luckovich said this about Moss' condition on May 21, 2006:

"Channing Moss was released last week from the inpatient hospital at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. He and his wife, Lorena, and their daughter, Yuliana, who is almost 2, have moved into family quarters on the giant Reed reservation. Their second child is due June 28.

"Moss must undergo daily physical therapy, perhaps for months. His hip gives him the most pain, his wife said, but some days he skips his pain medication. The RPG played hell with his colon, and he must wear a colostomy bag for another six to eight months while his intestine heals. But already he has progressed from bed to wheelchair to walker to cane."

The photo above, credited to Rick McKay of
The Atlanta Journal Constitution, shows Moss helped by technician Cameo Atkins in a physical therapy session. We understand, as of October 2007, Moss had at least one more abdominal surgery. The big threats, which subside over time, had to do with getting infected internally. A lot of medical attention has been given to keep his interior clean and for some time initially medical technologies had to be employed to hold his insides together while everything healed.


Retired Gen. William Kernan shakes hands with Pfc. Channing Moss after presenting him the Purple Heart at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. General Kernan also presented the Purple Heart to Staff Sergeant Wynn Moss, standing to Moss' right. Courtesy photo, presented by Ft. Drum.

You might wonder what happened to good old Staff Sgt. Eric Wynn, the truck commander, whose face almost stopped the incoming RPG. The doctors took skin from his ear and patched up his nose, though he comments that they left one nostril bigger than the other. He was treated in Afghanistan and returned to duty. As of May 21, 2006, he had more plastic surgery to go.

We might think that what happened here is unusual, a one in a billion shot. Maybe so, but Dr. Oh said they had drilled for patients with live ordnance inside, so they must have known this kind of thing in some form was possible.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused the medical community to focus much harder on injuries received from the RPG. This weapon was designed as a tank killer. But our enemies in these two countries have used it as an anti-personnel weapon. They have also used it to shoot down helicopters.

The major threat from an RPG, however, is the large blasts that blow off limbs and kill people. Brian J. Woebkenberg, John G. Devine, Robert Rush, Benjamin Starnes, and Harry Stinger have collaborated on a report entitled, "Nonconventional Uses of the Rocket-Propelled Grenade and Its Consequences." We found it published by the BNET Research Center. They address a case study where a 26-year old male was suffering from a RPG blast injury to the right thigh. There are some similarities with what happened to Moss, though there was no detonation for Moss.

Postscript: Andrew Paparella and rena Lafaille wrote an update on these events, “Channing Moss and the Men Who Save Him: Where are they Now?, dated May 26, 2011. I follows.

More than five years have passed since a group of brave servicemen risked their lives to save Pvt. Channing Moss after an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade struck the Army gunner's abdomen and remained lodged there. Read on for updates on Moss and the men who kept him alive.

Channing Moss
Channing Moss: Channing Moss was awarded a Purple Heart. Now out of the Army, he has recovered well from his wounds and the years of surgeries that followed and is attending college back home in Georgia. His daughter Yuliana is 6 now and daughter Ariana is 4.

Medevac Crew based in Salerno, Afghanistan: The members of the chopper crew who transported Moss while the unexploded RPG stuck out of his body – Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jorge Correa, MEDEVAC pilot; Sgt. John Collier, flight medic; Chief Warrant Officer 3 Jeremy Smith, co-pilot, and SSG Christian Roberts, crew chief -- were awarded the Air Medal for their heroism against an armed enemy. Correa and Smith still work together – both were deployed to Iraq after their service in Afghanistan. They are currently stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. Correa is an Army Airplane Flight Instructor. Smith is now qualified to fly fixed wing, C-12 Kingair airplanes for the Army.

Jared Angel
Jared Angell: The medic, Jared "Doc" Angell, was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor. Angell is out of the regular Army now and serves as a police officer in Utah and a medic in the Army Reserves.

Dan Brown
Dan Brown: Explosives expert Sgt. Dan Brown was also awarded the Bronze Star with Valor. Brown, recently promoted to Master Sergeant, is currently in Saudi Arabia as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal advisor to the Saudi military.

Billy Mariani
Billy Mariani: Lt. Billy Mariani, the officer who promised Private Moss he was going home, was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor and received an honorable discharge from the Army in 2009. He is now a student at Florida State University College of Law.

Kevin Kirk
Kevin Kirk: Dr. Kevin Kirk, the orthopedic surgeon who operated on Moss, received an Army Commendation Medal with Valor. Kirk, who was later promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, is Chief, Orthopedic Surgery Service at Brooke Army Medical Center, Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. He is currently deployed with the 936th Forward Surgical Team in Afghanistan.

John Oh
John Oh: The Army awarded the general surgeon who operated on Moss, Major John Oh, the Soldier's Medal for Heroism. Dr. Oh was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 2009. He published an account of the surgery in a military surgical textbook, "War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq," in 2008.

He is now the incoming Trauma Program Director at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany. The trauma center receives all U.S. and coalition casualties from combat theaters in Europe and Africa. Dr. Oh and his wife, Susan, have two children, Liam Thomas and Eva Lily.

Eric Wynn
Eric Wynn: Sgt. Eric Wynn, who was wounded when the rocket-propelled grenade came through Moss' humvee, received his Purple Heart at the same ceremony as Channing Moss.

"The miracle of Iraq is actually in Medevac"