Why leaving the wire for a MEDCAP unarmed is absolutely terrifying

Being deployed to a war zone can sometimes mean intense firefights, well-concealed IEDs, and the overall fear of the unknown. These are just a few of the many dangers many of our service members face on a daily basis.

When our troops gear up to leave the wire they put on their armor, chamber a round into their rifles and some quietly recite a prayer to themselves before heading out.

But sometimes these presumably calm foot patrols can go south in a matter of moments.

Marines depart their entry control point on a foot patrol heading toward the bazaar in Now Zad district, Helmand province, Afghanistan. (Source: USMC Life)

Related: 6 things corpsmen should know before going to the ‘Greenside’

So imagine leaving the outpost unarmed in the face of this uncertainty. That’s what happens on so-called MEDCAP missions.

MEDCAP — which stands for “medical civil action program” — is a process where allied medical personnel exit the semi-safe confines of their FOBs and treat the local populous of their sickly alignments and injuries.

In hopes of gaining the locals’ trust, the medical staff typically don’t wear their protective body armor or carry their side arms to the events.

In several cases, the medical team ends up treating the enemy’s wounds which they may have sustained while battling allied forces — not cool.

med cap

Hundreds of local Afghani local nationals gather for a MEDCAP treatment.

Going out unarmed is one thing, but sitting in the same place — sometimes for hours — unprotected in a combat zone is downright terrifying. And one of the biggest dangers comes from suicide bombers, who can sometimes get close enough to detonate themselves or even fire their weapon before getting checked by the guards.

It happens more than you’d like to think.

U.S. Navy doctor, Lt. Cdr. Ashby, conducts a medical procedure on a local man.

Also Read: 4 gross non-battle injuries medics have to look at

Unfortunately, MEDCAPs usually take place in an open landscape to draw the locals in, but that can make them vulnerable to snipers who crave such a clear shot.

At any moment, a calm situation can go deadly in a world where violence is second nature.