Medics treating the Taliban in Afghanistan

By Colette Hume
Wales correspondent

Image caption,
The field hospital also treats captured enemy fighters as well as civilians

BBC Wales' Colette Hume spent time embedded with the Royal Welsh troops serving in Afghanistan.

In the third of her reports from the frontline against the Taliban, she visited a field hospital at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province where battlefield injuries are treated, no matter who is the casualty.

"Some of the soldiers, when they come here, they cry for their mothers...."

A simple but devastating sentence from a man who exudes the quiet of calm of one who has seen too much.

Major Simon Davies, from Wrexham, is the officer commanding the emergency department at the Camp Bastion field hospital.

The unit is widely acknowledged as the best of its kind in the world. Every day Major Davies and his staff see and treat appalling injuries.

As I spoke to him, he was awaiting the arrival of an Afghan child whose legs had been blown off after she stepped onto an improvised explosive device (IED).

He first served here in 2006.

A gentle, quietly spoken man, he said: "You are bewildered the first time you see some of these horrific injuries. It doesn't get better with time but you learn to cope with it.

"I, personally, keep things locked up in a little box in my brain and frankly that's the only way to deal with it because we are seeing horrendous injuries and, as opposed to the NHS, a lot of our casualties are below the age of 25, therefore you're dealing with the younger generation."

His staff are a mixture of Territorial Army and regulars and the experience they gain here is taken back to critical care units across the world.

"The staff here do see terrible injuries. Debriefing sessions are important, we do see unique trauma that you would only see in places like Afghanistan, therefore we have to handle the staff carefully.

"The role of the padre who is attached to the hospital is fundamental to this and he can take staff away and talk through some of the issues and the ethical challenges."

And those ethical challenges include treating the insurgents.

The greatest challenge of military nursing, he told me, is to putting personal feelings and emotions to one side to treat a casualty who may have been responsible for killing or injuring coalition troops or Afghan civilians.

Image caption,
Major Simon Davies said military nursing involves treating captured enemy fighters

"Nobody joins the Army to fight an IED, it's a pretty horrific weapon of conflict.

"They have their thoughts and we have to respect them. We're in a foreign land doing our bit and I just try to take the emotion out of it. We have the insurgents here as casualties and we have to deliver the same standard of care as if it's a UK squaddie."

When the insurgents wake up in the hospital, Major Davies says, they are scared and confused.

He said: "Clearly they are a detainee when they come here and they are guarded on the ward. They must be bewildered, they must wonder, they've come, basically, into the first world via a helicopter and it must be quite daunting from their perspective, to be here.

"Some of the guys find it difficult that we have to do this, but we're here and this is the role of military nursing to cope with this as best we can."

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