Tales from Zamboanga: The MEDIC

A nation without God’s guidance is a nation without order. Happy are those who keeps God’s law. Prov. 29:18

Medics are essential to the success of any fighting unit whether in the police or military. The lives of the troopers depend on their skills in caring for the injured and ability to improvise as situation dictates during actual combat. However, they do not get much attention as the ones carrying the assault rifles or the sophisticated machine guns. But as the designated medic of our assault team, I do not mind the difference as long as I contribute to the success of my unit. With my heavy medical equipment and my firearm, I am just happy to be part of my team’s accomplishments.

During the Zamboanga siege, I was with Special Action Team 843 that has served as the “main effort” in most engagements against members of the Moro National Liberation Front. Aside from performing combat casualty care, I was also actively involved in actual operations all throughout the duration of the conflict.

On September 24, 2013 at about 5:30 AM, our team was one of those tasked to conduct rescue operations at the vicinity of Ayer Village in Brgy. Sta Barbara. As practiced, I brought my full equipment and medic bag. During the briefing before the jump off, we were specifically instructed to look for a white flag that marks the house where the hostages are reportedly located.

We reached the area after about an hour and scanned the surroundings, wary of any ambush. At around 6:45 AM, our company commander instructed us to clear a concrete house. We slowly made our way inside without making noise and surprised the occupants at the second floor. No shots were fired as the armed men immediately surrendered. A few minutes later, I heard women’s voice from inside the house saying they are hostages. I noticed that one of the women was wounded, so I immediately applied dressing on her bleeding left thigh.

The rest of the team assessed the area while the rescued hostages and suspected MNLF members stayed prone on the floor. Suddenly, burst of gunfires erupted and bullets hit our position. We immediately returned fire and brought the hostages to a safer location behind a wall.

While the firefight was ongoing, some of the arrested hostage takers shouted “Sir may tama ako! Sir may tama ako!” I told the hostages to stay on the concrete wall and asked my buddy to provide covering fire as I treated the injured hostage takers and pulled them to another room.

I applied direct pressure on the seriously injured hostage taker’s wounds and administered intravenous fluid to compensate for his blood loss. The others sustained lacerations caused by shrapnel that were quickly patched up using our available bandage. About 20 minutes later, the firing finally ceased and the enemy withdrew. After the smoke cleared, we moved all the wounded to a burned backyard surrounded by demolished houses to give them further treatment. The other assaulting troops pressed forward to clear the enemy-held areas.

At this time, I came back to my senses and thought of what had just happened. I suddenly realized how fortunate I was not to be hit, or else the whole team would have suffered as well.

In the confusion and chaos during the non-stop exchange of fire, I had to keep my composure because my teammates will be looking up to me in case they got wounded. While I was attending to the injured, I could hear the sound of bullets ricocheting around me. Pieces of flying concrete caused by M2O3 and RPG explosions also kept hitting my face, but the thought of dying never came to my mind.

Nor did it ever occur to me who I was helping. Being the medic, I had no choice but to treat every wounded person in the absence of proper medical treatment; whether he was a fellow trooper, an enemy or a non-combatant.

God has a purpose in letting everything happen. Maybe this is a way for Him to show that a man without vision is a man without direction. If one wishes to be unafraid of those in authority, then he must do what is good and they will praise Him. Law enforcement officers are God’s servants who work for the good of the community. Consequently, they are God’s instruments in carrying out His punishment on those who do evil.

For this reason you must obey the authorities, not just because of God’s punishment, but also a matter of conscience (Romans 13).

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