Master Sergeant – U.S Air Force, 349 MDS Medical Squadron
First Lieutenant – Army Reserves
Operation Northern Watch, Persian Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom &,
Operation Enduring Freedom
First Lieutenant Paul Trinidad was born on August 11, 1970 in Angeles City, Philippines. He immigrated to The United States with his family looking for a better life and the American Dream, settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During his sophomore year in college he made the decision to join the military as a way to give back to a country that had enabled him to pursue his dreams. In return, the Air Force helped finance his education. It was a perfect union. Trinidad is an extremely proud and grateful American. As a Medic, his positive, peaceful and compassionate demeanor was exactly what our injured frontline troops needed. He witnessed first hand the sacrifices our men and women have made and asks everyone to appreciate the freedoms that they have fought so hard to secure. Freedom is not free.
Trinidad’s uncle and role model was in the Air Force for twenty-four years, and wanting to follow in his footsteps, he decided to enlist in the Air Force. His family was very supportive and proud. He started his basic training on July of 1991 in San Antonio, Texas. He recalls that during the first few weeks, he was in a state of shock. He remembers, “…You’re not used to being yelled at constantly, like the moment you get off of the bus and the drill instructor is already telling you to lift your bag, put it down, lift your bag, put it down, lift your bag, put it down, until your arm was sore and tired.” However, in the end, he was grateful for his experience and the unity and the cohesive team that rose above his grueling Boot Camp experience. He states that it takes a tremendous amount of selflessness and discipline to be in the service.
After Boot Camp, he went to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, to learn his AFSC, Air Force Specialty as a medical technician. Upon completion, he was deployed to his first assignment at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. He describes his duties as working in a medical surgical ward and family practice during peacetime. He took care of retired active duty or military troops and their dependent families. During this time, he went from an Airman First Class E3 to a Senior Airman E4.
His next assignment was Operation Northern Watch in Incirlik, Turkey, reinforcing a No Fly Zone. Their mission was to intercept Saddam Hussein’s pilots, ensuring that they were not crossing the border. His duties were, as he described, “to make sure that all the members that are deployed there on that base were very healthy and ready to go, and if they’re injured, of course, they cannot fulfill their mission so we made sure that they’re healthy physically.” The conditions were sufficient. They lived in tents, with showers in a common area. There was a Moral Welfare Recreation Area with telephone access, television, and video games. There was also a chapel on site and a Chaplain.
In 2003, Trinidad was given orders to report to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and was deployed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. It was five hours by air from Bagdad. Soldiers with IED (Improvised Explosive Device) blasts and gunshot wounds were flown in on C130’s and C17’s. Trinidad was assigned to the second floor of the medical surgical ward 10 Charlie Delta. Landstuhl RMC was a 24-hour, level 3, emergency treatment center, and a 16-hour workday was not uncommon. He remembers he did what he had to. If they were shortages of staff, he simply worked more. He never knew when his next load of soldiers needing stabilization or immediate surgery were coming in. Trinidad states, “…We did it; we’re not complaining because these are men and women who served our country who were injured, and they really need to be taken care of. You have to put that into perspective that these are the men and women that sacrificed their lives, so they need to be taken care of.” His most challenging task was budgeting his time with the overwhelming number of severely injured soldiers; he recalls, “I got to know them on a personal basis and where they’re from and how old they were and what they do…. so many of them were wounded; you have to just be very conscious of your time, that you have to give the right amount of time, of dedication, of taking care of the soldiers that are wounded – and then you have to go the next and the next and the next other soldiers that you have to take care of.” Trinidad also helped out in the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility where the incoming wounded would arrive on airbuses, be assessed and taken by stretcher, ambulance or ambulance bus for treatment. The conditions were good. During World War II, Landstuhl was Hitler’s main Nazi military hospital. It was a very large and well-designed facility, constructed in such a way, as to continue to function if one section was bombed by the Americans during an air raid. Though his time at Landstuhl helped expose and prepare him for acute emergency medical treatment, it was only the beginning of what he was to experience next in Kirkuk, Iraq.
In 2007 and 2008, then as a Master Sergeant, he was deployed 150 miles north of Bagdad to Kirkuk, Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was scorching hot in the late summer and fall with temperatures reaching 125 degrees. The facility was quite large and was shared with all the different branches of the military, including the British and Australian Armies. It was much more remote and primitive with a barbwire fence, earthen dams, concrete barriers, gates and watchtowers for protection. Everyone avoided the barbwire perimeter because of sniper attacks. He remembers his experiences, “We were being bombed about four to six times a day. You could hear some gunfire left and right, and you just didn’t know where they’re coming from. But, you still had to….do your duty while you were there. Sometimes when I think about it, in one month alone, we had about sixteen casualties. … 2007 was the bloodiest year in Iraq. So, I’m just very fortunate that I was able to make it back home without being injured and I thank God for that every-day. You end up having a different kind of perspective after being in the FOB, or Forward Operating Base. When you’re there, you just have to be ready – anything could happen, any moment.” Three days into his tour, a mortar round exploded 85 meters from where he was standing. Trinidad remembers that as his scariest moment. He felt that the hours were long; a 12-hour day was standard, but at times, 20-hour days were not uncommon. He did get one day off a week. During his down time, which was unpredictable, he did do mass casualties exercises, where every minute counted. Trinidad remarks, “If you do not know what you’re doing, that could be the life of the soldier that you’re taking care of. You have to be very proficient, and you have to know what you’re doing, on the right spot, at the right moment.” Trinidad received an Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal for his service in Kirkuk.
Other awards, medals and ribbons Trinidad received were: Army Service Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor Device (6 oak leaf cluster), Air Force Good Conduct Medal (1), Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal (2 oak leaf cluster), National Defense Service Medal with bronze service star (1) bronze service star, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air and Space Campaign Medal, Air Force Expeditionary Ribbon (1 oak leaf cluster), Air Force Longevity Service (2 oak leaf cluster), Armed Forces Reserve Medal with 1 ‘M’ Device and bronze hour glass bronze hour glass, US Air Force NCO PME Graduate Ribbon, Air Force Training Ribbon.
Trinidad is now in the Army Reserves and is based out of Camp Parks in Dublin, California working in the Information Operations Department. He is in the 303rd unit as a Plans Officer. He will be retiring on July 16th after twenty years of service with an Honorable Discharge. He plans to continue his graduate education in business administration, after which, he would like to go to law school. He thinks he will miss the comradery and brotherhood of military life. He observed that only in the U.S. Military do you have people of all walks of life and of all races. It is special to see so many different ethnicities come together as one in the US military. Trinidad still keeps in touch with his fellow officers. He states, “It is like the brotherhood and sisterhood of arms and you create a very special bond. You’re in an unusual situation, unusual circumstances. You’re pretty much at war, and you have each other’s back to depend on your life….you become like a family, a strong family.” When asked how his service has changed his life, Trinidad responded that after being in a combat zone, he realizes that there are more important things than making money. He states, “You start to evaluate life, a life of a person. You value friendship and your family’s relationship more, and that at any given moment, we could die.” Trinidad continues to say that his experiences with death, and near death, have helped him see that it is how one lives his life that is important. The footprint one makes will have a great impact on the people he loves and leaves behind.
Trinidad resides in San Rafael and is active his community’s veterans organizations. He is a member of the Marin County United Veterans Council, the treasurer for the Marin County Military Officers Association of America, and a trustee for the Veterans of Foreign War in San Rafael, Post 72.
In closing, First Lieutenant Paul Trinidad is a fiercely proud and patriotic American. He feels immensely blessed to be part of this great country that we live in. He is adamant that only in America can one fulfill his dreams. He sees war as a last resort but sometimes is necessary to preserve freedom and human rights. He urges his fellow citizens to be aware that their freedom was hard won. Trinidad remarks, “ ….I don’t know any job out there where people are willing to give their life for this country.” People should really appreciate this. He reiterates that it is because of our armed forces that, “we have the great country, the United States of America, great freedom, where you could build your enterprise. There’s no such place in the world that has the kind of freedom they have in America.” So, I would like to take this opportunity to salute you, First Lieutenant Paul Trinidad, and all the people in the Armed Forces for all that you have done to preserve the rights our Founding Fathers set forth. Thank you for your sacrifice, service and protecting our freedom.
Narrative by Peter Jake Daniels on June 23, 2014.