“ ... So much going on in Ukraine, maybe I can help”

“ ... So much going on in Ukraine, maybe I can help”By LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

“I haven’t really seen too many people volunteering or heard about it,” said Ridgecrest resident Doug Foster. “With my background doing firefighting, search and rescue and hazmat out at the plant in Trona and being ex-Navy, I just felt like I had to. There’s so much going on over there right now and so many refugees. They need help. I’m not going to go over there to save the world or anything, but maybe I can help somebody.”

On Saturday, March 17, Foster headed to Las Vegas to say some goodbyes and be prepared to catch a plane on Tuesday, March 22 and begin his journey to volunteer in Ukraine.

Foster quit both of his full-time jobs in preparation for heading to Ukraine to be of service. He told his teenager directly what he is doing, “I don’t know if he necessarily understands the war or the risks that are at hand with going over there but he seems to be okay with it.” He told his three young children and his grandmother that he was going to be away for a few months helping people. His mom, aunt and uncle are used to his helping people and are proud of him.

I’m going over just volunteering by myself because if you go Foreign Legion, you’re automatically contracted for three years with them. And you have the possibility of losing your citizenship.”

Traveling light isn’t possible. In his rucksack he has: “Two parkas, a bunch of camouflage gear, tops and bottoms. I’ve got my body armor which is 20 pounds at least; that should probably take a 50 caliber, it’s pretty thick armor. It’s almost three quarters of an inch thick, each plate - a front plate and a back plate. So hopefully that would do the job. Then I have a ton of first aid supplies. Probably four or five separate kits and those contain stuff from basic supplies all the way up to possibly doing a tracheotomy on somebody if they have breathing problems. I’ve also got bandages in there that are for sucking chest wounds. So if somebody takes a chest shot, you apply that. I’ve got tourniquets and all kinds of stuff. So hopefully anything that I might need if I’m out there and run across somebody, then I’ll have it on hand. Other than that, survival stuff like binoculars, compasses.” It is noteworthy that he paid for these supplies from his personal funds.

Foster is navigating this journey on his own. He has been monitoring online groups and seeing what and how they are doing. His journey begins with flying out of Las Vegas, changing planes in Denver, ultimately landing in Washington, D.C. Where he makes his way to the Ukrainian embassy to expedite his passport. That paperwork should take about 24 hours and then the Ukrainian embassy will fly him to Warsaw, Poland, a 17 hour flight.

He believes the military there will assess his skills and assign him where appropriate. “I’m hoping that with all my first aid and search and rescue and firefighting experience that I could just stick with being a medic. I want to be a combat medic.” He explains, “Combat medics are supposed to be considered neutral in most wars because generally as a combat medic, if the situation came about, you could help either the good guys or the bad guys. You’re supposed to help out anybody that’s hurt. That’s why I got the body armor and all the gear and everything like that is because even though I am the medic, I’ll still be in the line of fire. I’ll have weapons on me just like everybody else will. And it’s going to be part of the guys’ job around me to help keep anything off my back if something was to happen. But at the same time I’ll have weapons to help defend myself in the event that I need to.”

If he doesn’t receive a medic assignment his second choice is security in a refugee camp. “There’s 2.5 million refugees over there ... probably more. There’s murders going on over there, robberies, deaths, kidnappings. And lately they found out that there’s kidnapping for human and sex trafficking. So I would like to help organize some kind of security. Because that’s pretty crazy. You have these refugees there and they’re just trying to stay alive. And it’s chaos over there.”

Foster will be able to stay in touch with folks back home. “As soon as I get off the plane in Warsaw, there’s a cellphone store next to the airport. You can go in there and swap out to an international SIM card.” One can follow him on Facebook with his user name “Doug Foster.” His profile photo is a headshot of a Star Wars stormtrooper. The same content will be on his TikTok page, vhsrocksmysocks1980. Or he will accept email at dw.foster1980@gmail.com.

If you check out his social media, you will see that he has a Go Fund Me account set up (https://gofund.me/2fa9523a). If he exceeds his goal the leftovers will be donated to refugee camps. But right now he needs to raise funds primarily for the possibility of needing to flee in an emergency. He will need to hire a driver to get to the embassy and most likely pay his own airfare home.

Laura Austin Photo: Doug Foster packed and ready with his 90 pounds of gear shortly before leaving for Ukraine.

Story First Published: 2022-03-25