Força Ukraine Update- End of Mission: March 30th, 2024

Dear friends –
Somehow, inexplicably, we have reached the end of our mission in Ukraine for March 2024. The team said our goodbyes on the 29th, with Yuliia returning to her home in Dnipro, Bohdan, Emily and I got on the train for Lviv later in the evening, Vik stayed one more night before taking the train back to her home the next morning, and Steve is still in Dnipro. I will be sending out a follow-on email once we have collected all the metrics, but by all accounts, we felt like the trip was a great success and while we continue to refine exactly where to have the most effect, all agreed it was likely more impactful than our July mission of last year. This trip we were able to spend more time with a greater number of higher level providers, helping them learn and refine advanced pre-hospital trauma skills. For what this team specializes in, we felt like we were much closer to our sweet spot.

Our last full night all together, we were again reminded of the reality for everyone who lives in Ukraine. Almost 100 missiles and drones were launched into Ukraine, primarily targeting civilian infrastructure in a pair of coordinated attacks. Our team sheltered initially around 1 in the morning during an initial tranche of drones, likely a probing attack to both test weaknesses in the air defense system and force Ukraine to expend valuable air defense resources. We heard four explosions – almost all air defense systems engaging the drones. About an hour after that attack was finished, we learned that a barrage of cruise missiles had been launched with an on-target time of between 4 and 5 in the morning. We sheltered again from 4-6:30 AM while monitoring reports of various missiles and drone vectors, as well as fighter jets in the air over both the Caspian Sea and the northern border. There were several more explosions, at least one hitting a major power station. While the team was safe throughout, it was a sobering reminder of what any given night is like in Ukraine.

Over the last two training days, we were able to train two local fire departments in basic trauma medicine. This was another last minute shift due to the earlier cancellation of our plans in the north due to concern of drone attacks. It seemed sadly appropriate as firefighters are the first on scene after these drone and missile attacks. There have also been multiple instances where they themselves have been targeted by a second strike, purposefully launched to hit first responders. The night we were sheltered was the night in between our trainings with them, and I had to wonder how many of the people we trained were out that night, putting themselves at risk to help others. It was an incredible honor and privilege to work with them – we all hope they never are called on to use any of the interventions we trained. Earlier that evening, we had also conducted a civilian class on basic hemorrhage control – these classes are critical due to the number of civilian targets that are routinely struck.

As we close out the trip, there are so many points of reflection. There will be more stories, more time to talk about what happened here. We are already planning our next mission out here – the needs remain higher than ever, especially as Ukraine has less and less ability to defend itself with the continued degradation of the air defense systems. On this trip more than any other, there was a marked increase in the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure across the country. As spring turns into summer, I have little doubt that there will be another significant uptick in the fighting and the suffering of Ukrainians across the country.

I want to thank you for all your support. Your belief in us – and in the work we do – is so humbling. But I also want to thank several people in particular. My team has heard me tell this story before, but not long after 9/11, my parents and I were in New York. I was about to start my career working for the US Government doing work that would take me on multiple deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places. There were still thousands of missing persons fliers up when we were in New York – people hoping against hope that their loved ones had survived. My mom looked at the posters and said “I wish we could do something for these people.” My dad replied “we are giving them the most precious thing we have.” To all the families who put your trust in us – in me – to navigate these trips and come home safely, thank you. I know you are sharing with the team the most precious thing you have. To Emily, John, Cathy, Olya, all the other parents and partners who love us, thank you for supporting us through this work. To my team, thank you. You gave yourselves, which is the most valuable and precious thing you could give. I am so grateful to you all and humbled to work for you.

Emily and I will depart for Poland tomorrow and will be home the day after that – I will send a close-out email shortly thereafter that will capture what we could measure in a trip full of immeasurable impact. I hope through these emails, you know what an important role you have played in making this all possible. Everything we did happened because you support us. Saying thank you seems too small, but thank you from all of us here at Força Ukraine.

In gratitude – Mike

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