Corpsman and combat medics often get tasked with being quasi-detectives before, during, and after coming in contact with the enemy. Due to the Geneva Convention and a special oath we take, we’re bound to treat every patient that comes our way — regardless of what side they’re on.
After every mission or patrol, the infantry squad gathers to conduct a debriefing of the events that transpired. It’s at that moment that thoughts and ideas are discussed before the squad breaks for some decompression time.
If the corpsman and combat medic took care of an enemy patient and discovered new information, everyone needs to know — the info could save lives down the line.
So, what kinds of things do we look for outside of the obvious when we treat the bad guys?
1. The importance of elbows.
Ask any seasoned sniper, “how are your elbows?” He’ll probably tell you that they’re bruised as hell. Many snipers lose superficial sensation in the bony joint after spending hours in the prone position, lining up for that perfect shot.
When a Taliban fighter has sore or bruised elbows, chances are they took a few shots at allied forces in the past. The squad doc can usually check that during a standard exam.
Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle notices the bruised elbows of his Iraqi host, which indicate that he’s a potential sniper. (Screenshot from American Sniper, property of Warner Brothers)
2. Scars are telling.
The Taliban are well known for seeking American treatment for minor issues, but typically go to their own so-called “doctors” when they get shot. Medical staff commonly search for other injuries while conducting their exam. Scarring due to significant injury is immediately red-flagged.
Although the bad guy will likely make up a sh*t excuse for the healed-over wound via the interpreter, moving forward, he’s a guy you probably shouldn’t trust.
3. Always consider the time frame.
Often, the Taliban shows up at the American front gates, pleading for medical attention while claiming to have been innocently shot. This claim usually earns them entry into the allied base under close guard. Next, the potential bad guy gives a statement and a time frame of when he was injured.
This information will be routed up to the intel office to be thoroughly verified. Oftentimes, the state of the wound doesn’t match up with the time frame given. As a “doc,” always recall the typical stages of healing and determine how old the wound really is, regardless of what the injured states.
4. There’s a little hope with every patient you encounter.
Although you’re on opposing sides, there’s some good in every patient you come across. From the youngest to the oldest, your professionalism and kindness could stop a future attack down the line. Winning the “hearts and minds” is close to complete bullsh*t, but not totally so.
Doc Silva handshakes the hand of a few Afghan children while on patrol. (Wikipedia Commons)
This article was written by Tim Kirkpatrick and originally published on We Are the Mighty.