COMBAT OUTPOST RAHMAN KHEL, Afghanistan — Each week, Capt. Rachel Odom takes off in a helicopter to fly to yet another distant military outpost of this mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan to patch the troops in her care back together.
One recent morning, 13 soldiers came to visit her in the small wooden medical hut of a 100-man camp near the village of Rahman Khel, cradled by the snow-tipped mountains of Paktia Province near the Pakistani border. One after another, the soldiers told her of their twisted knees, back pains or shoulder strains — the increasingly familiar-sounding toll of a long war.
After multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of these soldiers’ bodies are nearing the breaking point. It is up to Captain Odom, 28, from Moselle, Miss. — the only physical therapist attached to the 3,500 men and women of the Fourth Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division — to keep them together.
“These bodies get a beating,” she said as she spent the next 12 hours stretching out legs, lifting arms or standing on a box to lean over and pummel pulled back muscles, accompanied by sighs, groans, thanks and the occasional curse.