The Rescue Brigade

The military's airborne medical-evacuation teams are critical to holding down U.S. casualties in Afghanistan. Lynsey Addario travels to the front lines to follow one medevac unit as it races to save another life

Ariana Cubillos / AP

It's crucial to get a soldier treatment within an hour after injury. Jessie Russell, left—a pilot like her father, who flew during the Vietnam War—works to get troops to operating theaters as quickly as possible.

As the war in Afghanistan enters its 10th year, many of the troops there have already been on two or three combat tours. Few service members have witnessed the toll of war more than members of the military's medical-evacuation units. The medevacs have been in situations in which they have saved lives by getting the injured to a forward operating hospital, and they have been in many situations in which they watched their fellow troops die.

In 2007, I spent about five days with the medevacs operating out of Kandahar airfield in...

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