Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2011, 9:05 PM by Al Saibini
This is the description of the incident in Afghanistan where Joe was shot and his current condition:
BACKGROUND Special Agent (SA) Joe Piersante is a member of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST). DEA FAST has been continuously deployed to Afghanistan since 2005. Teams conduct 4-month temporary assignments, usually in the most austere and non-permissive areas of Afghanistan. The FAST mission targets the highest echelon of narco-terrorists who are corrupting the Afghan society while polluting the world with the scourge of heroin and opium.
FAST missions are focused on the interdiction of large caches of narcotics and arresting senior narco-terror criminal organizations. Within the complex fabric of Afghanistan, one thing is very straight forward. Narcotics traffickers and Terrorist (Taliban) are interwoven so that nothing separates the two bad actors. Narcotics proceeds fuel the insurgency and the insurgency promotes the production of narcotics to keep driving the engine.
DEA FAST has established a unique relationship with the Special Operations Force (SOF) community -- US SOF as well as ISAF (NATO) SOF. The strategy of counter-narcotics/counter-insurgency (CN/COIN) nexus targeting has yielded resounding successes. FAST missions; which at their core are based on DEA working with Afghan law enforcement partners -- the National Interdiction Unit (NIU) -- to extend the rule of law; are embed with SOF units in order to leverage the best in both law enforcement (FAST) and military (SOF) tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP).
OCT 31, 2011 Special Agent Joe Piersante and the rest of his FAST teammates embarked on a mission to search a series of bazaars in northern Helmand Province, in the district of Baghran which is accurately described as a safe haven for the insurgency. Conventional military forces have had limited engagements within Baghran District during the past several years.
As standard operating procedure (SOP), FAST and NIU were embedded with an Australian SOF unit. The combined joint task force (CJTF) departed their forward operating base in the predawn hours of October 31st aboard four MI-17 helicopters. During the ensuing several hours, the CJTF conducted a sweeping cordon and search of a series of bazaars and compounds of interest. Taliban insurgents began to mass in the vicinity of CJTF tactical positions and engaged in effective enemy fire. The CJTF repeatedly repelled the incoming enemy fire and completed their assigned tasks and seized significant quantities of narcotics and evidence.
The fighting intensified as the extraction of troops was underway. As the last helicopter landed, a barrage of enemy fire erupted. Special Agent Joseph Piersante was carrying a MK-43 7.62 belt-fed machine gun and was positioned near the tail ramp of the helicopter. SA Piersante instinctively laid down a wall of fire which suppressed the incoming enemy fire so that his teammates could safely board their helicopter. As SA Piersante concluded his string of fire, he was struck in the head with an armor piercing 7.62mm enemy round. The bullet penetrated his ballistic helmet and entered his skull above the crest of his right eyebrow and traveled laterally across his forehead and exited above the crest of his left eyebrow and thru his helmet again.
SA Piersante was knocked unconscious due to the force of the round and his teammates carried him on to the helicopter. Joe Piersante is the former Mr. Michigan, a hulking frame of a man who weighs 240 pounds without gear and another 100 pounds fully equipped. Joe was medevac to Kandahar Airfield for immediate surgery. His injuries are substantial. He is classified as severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). In addition to TBI, both of Joe's eye orbits were destroyed. Both eyes were lacerated with both retinas detached and cornea severely damaged.
Joe was medevac to Germany where doctors performed a craniotomy to reduce the swelling and dangers associated with inter-cranial pressure. Several days later, Joe - like so many before him - was medevac to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Joe underwent a series of operations including reconstruction of his frontal bridge, using the bone harvested from his craniotomy. Ophthalmologists conduct a pioneering endoscopic operation and were able to successfully reattach both of his retinas.
Five weeks after his injury, Joe is no longer intubated. His trauma team is completely in awe of his progress. Joe is cogent and able to speak and intelligently communicate. The tubes and machines which were keeping him alive are all removed. Joe is eating solid foods and is walking unassisted. His vision prognosis will require time to assess. Joe is able to detect light in both eyes. The bullet caused major trauma and time is needed for the eyes to heal, swelling reduce, and optic nerve to stabilize.
Joe will be transported from Walter Reed to the VA poly-trauma center in Richmond, Virginia in the near future. He faces a long recovery but as displayed on Oct 31st, Joe is a warrior and a fighter. Joe has a daughter Taylor (17) and a newlywed bride Ashley.
Joe and Ashley had been engaged for over a year. Ashley, herself a critical care nurse, secured their marriage license while Joe was still in an induced coma -- stuffed with tubes and machines - i.e., before anyone knew if Joe would be able to talk/walk. Joe and Ashley were married at Walter Reed last weekend. Just shows you the caliber of woman Joe is fortunate to have by his side. Ashley has taken an extended leave of absence without pay in order to be at Joe's side.
God Bless Joe Piersante and the other brave warriors who raise their swords and Stand the Line.
Donations to help defray living expenses for Joe and his family may be made via the DEA Survivors Benefit Fund at www.survivorsbenefitfund.org
. Note in the comments that it's for Joe Piersante.