Wednesday Warfighter: Capt. Jennifer Curtis

In April 2011, Captain Jennifer Curtis received a short-notice deployment to Firebase Chamkani, Afghanistan, where she embedded with U.S. Army Special Forces to assist with village stability operations. Captain Curtis quickly realized that her deployment would be dangerous when she first arrived at the firebase located in the mountains on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan and her helicopter was targeted by mortar rounds. After being on the receiving end of more than 126 mortar rounds over the course of her deployment, Captain Curtis became accustomed to this hazardous way of life.

As the female treatment team provider, assisted only by a medic and interpreter, she travelled to villages and schools to teach local women basic medical care and childbirth. The operation not only provided education, but also built relationships between NATO forces and the local Afghan citizens. While deployed, Captain Curtis developed a series of 11 medical messages that were aired on the local radio station. Their popularity prompted the locals to request that she provide more such messages.

One evening, enemy forces fired rockets at her encampment. Because the camp was on lockdown, Captain Curtis was the only medic available for the first 20 minutes of the attack. She rapidly identified six troops who had shrapnel wounds or had sustained concussions from the blasts and dragged them into the medical facility where she initiated lifesaving medical care until other medics arrived. Once the patients were stabilized, they were evacuated to the trauma center at Bagram Airfield.

Throughout her deployment, Captain Curtis accompanied Special Forces teams 62 times as they visited Afghan villages. The teams were engaged by small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) during 11 of those missions. In the course of one of these missions, a Soldier sustained shrapnel wounds from a RPG and Captain Curtis swiftly began emergency care to stop the bleeding from his leg. Simultaneously, she was alerted that a local woman was having a heart attack. After performing a quick assessment of the patient, who was with her family on the roadside, Captain Curtis stabilized her and administered care. Even as they were under fire, she continued to provide treatment while the woman’s son transported them to the hospital. Because of her actions during her deployment, Captain Curtis was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Force Combat Action Medal.

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