All roads lead to Ripley or so it must seem to Troy Bain and Shawn McKenna.
The two men, now working together with Jackson County’s emergency services, had not seen each other since 2004. Although the circumstances were quite different, they never forgot where they were or what they were doing in that memorable year.
Bain, a veteran of 10 deployments with the United States Army Reserves and the West Virginia National Guard, was shipped to Kosovo in 2004.
The military required special training for this mission, so he headed first to Camp Atterbury in Indiana. McKenna, who was in Charlie Company 146 Med Company, also landed at the same camp for training.
“We got to know each other a little,” Bain said. “There was training and exams that we all took.”
McKenna added that the geopolitical training was important as well.
“We had to get some sort of understanding of the culture we were going to,” he said. “There was a lot of tension between the Serbs and the Albanians, with a mix of religions that complicated things.”
Both being sent to Kosovo with their respective units, they were based at Camp Bondsteel.
“It was huge,” Bain recalled. “There were all kinds of countries with military stationed there. You would eat dinner with someone from Ireland or Italy. It was pretty cool.”
McKenna described the Kosovo assignment as a ‘good deployment.’” He said, although it had the potential to be hazardous, it was more of a peace-keeping mission. Both he and Bain said that the people of Kosovo were neither anti nor pro-American.
“It was a different sort of atmosphere,” McKenna said.
As for their jobs, each was in their area of expertise.
Bain was the non-commissioned head of the hospital emergency room, while McKenna was a flight medic.
“We were the ‘healthnet’ for the hospital,” McKenna stated.
One incident stands out to the two men. The memory is especially clear because it was captured in a photograph that McKenna discovered when he was clearing out some papers at home.
The British military controlled a communication center. One British soldier left the area, ending up in a vehicle accident. McKenna’s unit was always aircraft ready.
“We were ‘wheels up’ in five minutes,” he said. “And the hospital was always ready to deal with whatever was needed.”
The wounded soldier had a degloved hand which meant that all the skin was pulled away. Bain said that pain management was the key and eventually there was a skin graft.
Looking at the picture together brought the details of that day to the forefront.
“I can’t remember what I ate yesterday,” McKenna said with a laugh. “But I remember that day and that picture. My hand was up to slow everyone down because his IV bag had slipped. It was a neat day and later we got to hang out with that soldier.”
The camaraderie and mutual respect for those serving in the medical units were strong.
Bain said they all tended to gel and work as a team pretty quickly.
“If we didn’t have what we needed to do the job,” he said, “We figured out another way to get it done. We had a lot of Type A personalities in those units.”