New Mexicans share mission details after returning from Ukraine

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A couple of northern New Mexico first responders are back after spending a month in Ukraine. Now they are sharing details of their mission, what they accomplished and what they left behind.

It’s a story told with the help of a freelance photographer who captured that journey.

"It is important, I think we’re required to look. We’re required to see what is happening," said Stefan Wachs, a freelance photographer who lives in Santa Fe. "If we don’t, who will? I think it’s important we’re aware of what is happening."

Wachs traveled to Ukraine with Santa Fe Firefighter Rollin Jones and Los Alamos ER Doctor Chris Hammond as part of the Humanitarian Aid and Rescue Project.

"It was a tiny, little piece of humanity in a place that is extremely cruel," said Dr. Chris Hammond. "It feels good and it also feels extremely helpless to know what is happening and what has happened, we can only play a little, tiny piece of that."

They spent weeks traveling from Lviv to Kyiv and beyond, working to help train and educate those heading into war, some going to war for the first time.

"We came out, we kind of instilled in the people who are going to continue to be out there," said Jones.

Before leaving, they helped establish a trauma stabilization point just outside of Kyiv.

"If soldiers, civilians, or whoever, got hit on the front line in an area, they would come, in an ambulance, to us first and then be stabilized there and then move on to the hospital," said Dr. Hammond. "Because, in trauma, most people will die within the first hour and it’s about an hour to the front line to the hospital so we’re providing a stop-gap to stabilize, between the frontline and the hospital."

It’s a system that could stay in place long after they’re gone.

"I look at this trip as a beginning and not something that has been completed, in a way," said Wachs.

As the war in Ukraine continues, all three believe their calling goes far beyond the end of this mission.