By Laurie Wilson, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo.
/ Published November 07, 2018
The chief surgeon at the Air Force Academy received an award from a national defense group Nov. 2 for his actions in Afghanistan earlier this year.
Lt. Col. Jared Clay of the 10th Medical Group received the Patriot Award at the annual National Defense Industrial Association’s ball, sponsored by the association’s Rocky Mountain Chapter. The NDIA promotes strategic dialogue in national security and positive public affairs, according to its website.
Patriot Award recipients are nominated by their organization’s leadership, and positively represent the U.S. by exhibiting outstanding actions in dangerous situations and support local or national community affairs, according to the award criteria.
Clay deployed to Bagram Air Field to direct medical operations at Craig Joint Theater Hospital. He said it was a dusty but sunny day when he and his staff received the call.
“A motorcycle [carrying] an improvised-explosive-device exploded near a group of coalition soldiers and children,” he said.
The explosion killed 14 people near a gathering of Muslim clerics in the Afghan capital after they had issued a fatwa against suicide bombings, according to a Reuter’s news report.
The soldiers were on a good-will mission near a local school, Clay said. Descriptions of the event by Afghan locals included scenes of devastation with numerous people killed, including injured children and coalition soldiers.
“Many children were taken to local Afghan hospitals with little hope they would survive, based on their families’ reports,” he said.
Clay recalled triaging the wounded in the emergency room’s receiving bay at the hospital.
“Triage bays are often described as ‘controlled chaos,’ which is a good description of the event,” he said. “We had team members filling roles they were not necessarily comfortable with and the information flow was challenging, as we knew very little about the patients or their injuries prior to their arrival.”
In all, Clay and his team cared for three injured children and four coalition soldiers.
“This was definitely not a normal day for us,” he said, as hospital staff were not used to treating children. The majority of our patients were soldiers, friendly and enemy or injured in the line of duty.”
One child brought to the hospital had a severely wounded knee, Clay said.
“I assisted our orthopedist operate on the blood vessels that run behind the knee to keep the leg and foot alive,” he said. “All in all, the three severely injured children we received lived and two were able to walk out of the hospital.”
Clay returned to the Academy this summer.
“I’m humbled and honored to be the Academy’s nominee for the award,” Clay said. “I’ve benefited from excellent mentors and highly intelligent and devoted colleagues.”
Clay chalked-up his success to his coworkers at Craig Joint Theater Hospital.
“The accomplishments cited for this award are far from just one person’s solo work,” he said. “I had the opportunity to work with a great group of dedicated medical and support professionals to accomplish some amazing things in Afghanistan.”
Col. Shawn Campbell, 10th Air Base Wing commander, oversees the performance of the 10th MDG. He said Clay was the right nominee for the Patriot Award.
“Personally and professionally, Jared is the embodiment of our Air Force core values [“Integrity first,” “Service before self” and “Excellence in all we do”], he said.
Clay said he admires the teamwork and skill of Air Force medical experts who deploy.
“I’m pleased to be able to add my name to the list of surgeons who performed the crucial role of medical care for the wounded in Afghanistan,” he said.