The environment itself is constraining. It’s extremely noisy, even with the ear protection on. It’s a lot of vibration and movement as the aircraft is flying tactically. So, you’re doing medicine on a rapidly moving, vibrating, noisy platform. You’re going in with very low levels of light, so we’re hard to target. And so, sometimes we’re going in completely black, there’s no light at all. And the guys will wear night vision goggles when they’re picking the patients up to bring them back on. And then, we’ll operate with blue torch lights, we’ll work with blue torch lights until we get to a height where we’re outside rocket propelled grenade range, and we’re above… we’re above sort of the height that most of the bullets can reach. You can see tracer burning out at a particular height, so when you’re above that, generally, the guys will pass to put the light on for us. But we have the gunships as escorts. So, yeah, it’s something that worked. And you can feel the aircraft get hit, but they’re rarely hit badly enough that they didn’t achieve what they had to do.
That’s not really our issue. We’re in the back. Trust the guys in the front to do what they need to do. And you trust the gunships to do what they need to do. Our concern is being ready for when the patients come on, working on them when they come on, and loading them off in good order. You can see holes in the aircraft afterwards but again, that’s not our concern. That’s someone else’s concern. And if it ends in a big blue flash, well, it doesn’t really matter anyway, because you’re not, you know…
We’ve got a guard force come with us, Force Protection – four guys from the RAF Regiment. And we work with them in the week that they’re with us and train them up so they can help us. And then there’s the air crew of pilots and rear crew as well. So, there’s 12 people on the aircraft. And I think the relationships between the teams are extremely good. We’re very well looked after by the air crew and the Force Protection guys really like working with us. They think it’s one of the most rewarding things that they do. Not for all of them. Every now and again, clearly, there’s some of the… they’re quite young people… they are young people and some of the sights that they see when people come on the back of the aircraft can really be very upsetting for them. And some of them would decide that it’s not for them. And we make the point, this is not your role. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in deciding it’s not for you. You didn’t come here to do this. If you can, great. If it’s not for you, there’s no shame. But the vast majority of people want to do it.
This transcript is from a 2013 interview with Colonel Peter Mahoney, Royal Army Medical Corps. (NAM. 2013-04-6)