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‘This Kind Of Thing Happens In Iraq Or Syria’: Air Force Surgeon Describes Aftermath Of Las Vegas Shooting
Just after 11:30 pm on Oct. 1, Air Force Maj. Charles Chesnut awoke to an alarming cryptic alert from Air Combat Command’s AtHoc Emergency Mass Notification System: Avoid downtown Las Vegas. An hour and a half earlier, at 10:08 pm 64-year-old Stephen Paddock had opened fire from his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino and resort on a crowd of 22,000 revelers gathered below for a music festival.
“I was asleep in my bed, just like every Sunday before that,” Chesnut, a general surgeon with the 99th Medical Group out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, said in an Oct. 3 interview. But that didn’t stop him from springing into action. “I saw the catastrophic events that were unfolding, and I said, ‘This is what we train for … they’re going to need some help.’”
Chesnut was one of several Air Force surgeons who rushed to the level-one trauma center University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, where civilian doctors and medical personnel were struggling with the sudden deluge of gunshot victims — many of whom suffered wounds rarely seen outside of far-flung war zones.
“This was not a normal pattern of injuries,” UMC trauma surgery chief Dr. Douglas Fraser told the Washington Post on Oct. 3. The decision to call in military personnel was only logical, he added: “They are used to seeing those things.”
The shooter killed 58 people and injured 489 before ending his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, making the Las Vegas massacre the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Law enforcement officials say he used bump stock devices to simulate full-auto fire from his arsenal of AR-15-style, semi-automatic rifles for the attack, an event he reportedly planned for years. His motive is still known.
Chesnut arrived at the hospital’s overflowing trauma resuscitation unit, working feverishly to help save lives. Ironically, Nellis AFB had conducted a mass-casualty response training exercise just two days prior to the Vegas shooting in preparation for the upcoming Aviation Nation Air Show.
“That event was simulated: 100 patients, mass casualty, coming in to the 99th Medical Group, which eerily was almost the exact same number of patients we saw downtown at the only free-standing level-one trauma center in Nevada,” he said. “That training we had … helped us immensely that Sunday night.”
A man, now identified as Matthew Cobos, a U.S. Army cavalry scout shields a woman during the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1.Photo by David Becker/Getty Images
During the course of his efforts, Chesnut estimates that doctors saw more than 100 patients suffering from either gunshot wounds or contusions sustained after Paddock’s opening salvo sent the crowd of concertgoers into a panic. In shock, some victims didn’t even realize they’d been shot.
Chesnut himself told the Air Force he saw about 30 patients, “ranging from surgical procedures to end-of-life care to supervising our residents in training to getting glasses of water and holding patients' hands and helping them charge their cellphones.”
“Everybody worked together down there,” he said. “Nurses medics, surgeons, both Air Force and civilians, internal medicine doctors, hospitalists, anesthesiologists, critical care doctors … [they] worked to take care of these patients, to do some good in the face of evil.”
But while UMC’s Fraser said that military surgeons are used to dealing with the “quite large wounds” inflicted by Paddock’s arsenal of high-powered rifles, Chesnut begged to differ.
"I never thought that I would see this type of mass-casualty [event] stateside," he said. "This is the kind of thing that happens at Bagram or in Iraq or Syria, not Las Vegas, Nevada."
The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.
Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.
This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."
The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.
The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.
"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."
Green Beret with terminal cancer meets Trump to rally support for military medical malpractice reform
On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.
A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.
The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.
Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.
"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.
The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.
But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?