We are of course woefully used to seeing footage of soldiers bodies being repatriated and the sombre arrival of their coffins to Brize Norton, but what we’ve rarely got to see – much less journey along with – is the RAF’s Critical Care in the Air Support Team as they ferry the injured from the frontlines back to England.
But this moving film did just that, and it made for harrowing but necessary viewing. Necessary because in my opinion, the harsh realities of surviving – but being horrifically injured – battle in any war zone is rarely given air time, and it should be.
It’s just not glamorous enough I guess, and it’s a long journey back, and though we didn’t see all those featured back to rude health, we did at least get to see the start of the road back for them.
We also got to know some of the staff who man the massive flying intensive care unit, from pilots who humbly described themselves as “bus drivers” or taxi drivers, to the doctors and nurses who fight tooth and nail to keep their patients alive long enough to get them to hospital in the UK.
And of course, we already know how prolific is the work of the suicide bombers in Afghanistan, and we’re familiar with the term, IED – improvised explosive device – but as one nurse calmly but gravely relayed the damage these bombs can do, one could only marvel at man’s inhumanity to man.
The IED’s, the nurse explained, often contain dog faeces which is designed to ensure that infection will set into the wounds received by whoever’s on the receiving end of the bomb; if the actual explosion doesn’t kill the solider, the infection in his/her wounds probably will.
And we heard and saw a great deal of that damage in this film. From facial damage so bad, one would imagine it can never be fixed, to amputations and any number of other devastating injuries.
But as well as the very traumatic human stories of the patients, we got to hear a lot about the C-17 Globemaster which is the workhorse of the CCAST. It’s enormous, which of course makes it an all too visible target, so the pilots have to make what’s termed an “assault landing” into Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, which basically means dropping like a stone as fast as possible. And that can’t be a very pleasant experience for anyone in the plane.
And indeed, as we rode along, courtesy of Cutting Edge’s camera team – who have to be admired for their cahones – the tension was almost palpable as the plane entered the dangerous air space above the Camp. But how much more brave those men and women who do that all the time…
This was, as we viewers have come to expect from Cutting Edge, journalism at the sharp end, and it provided us with what transpired to be a moving, inspirational and informative film.
If you missed it, you can catch it here on 4oD.