Monday, August 27, 2007

Airmen, Soldiers Help Set Up New Hospital

25 Aug 07
By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs.

HERO CAMP, Afghanistan - Airmen and soldiers are blending medical supply logistics with a dose of Afghan National Army partnership in a dusty warehouse at ANA's Hero Camp near Kandahar Airfield.

It's a prescription for successful mentoring as the Afghans prepare for a new hospital opening here, said Capt. Jay Snodgrass, a medical logistics officer and ANA mentor deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The American servicemembers are helping install medical equipment into a new $6.5 million, 50-bed hospital at Hero Camp. "We're simply here to help them improve the processes they already have in place, to share with them the lessons we've learned about hospital administration and logistics," Snodgrass said.

The airmen and soldiers helping transfer equipment are medical logistics, administrators and equipment technician members for their respective services assigned to the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which is headquartered in Kabul, Afghanistan. While in Kandahar, the servicemembers work side-by-side with their Afghan counterparts, who are responsible for supplying and equipping the Hero Camp hospital, as well as other ANA clinics and brigade support throughout the region.

Mentoring doesn't always come easy, said Tech. Sgt. Curtis Miller, a medical logistics technician from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. While Miller's focus is to teach Afghans how to maintain hospital equipment, he and other embedded transition team members use every available opportunity to give advice where needed. "There is a learning curve," Miller said. "A lot of the things we take for granted in the United States, such as changing gloves for each patient, are things Afghans typically don't consider in a hospital. We try to spend time educating them on the benefits of sanitation and ways to prevent infection."

Miller said when he first began as a mentor, he was a little unsure how a young, American noncommissioned officer would come across to an Afghan military man who has served longer than the sergeant has been alive. It was unnerving to say the least. "There is an Afghan colonel we work with who was put in prison during the Russian occupation two decades ago," Miller said. "He was given execution orders and was two days away from being put to death when the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan -- two days away from being killed. Now, he has those orders on display in his office. You see this and you think, man, these guys have been through a lot."

Nevertheless, the Afghan officials are eager to learn and work with their American mentors.

"My mentor, Captain Snodgrass, and I are very close," said Afghan Maj. Abdul Ghafar, the 205th Hero Corps warehouse commander. "The Americans work fairly with each other and with us. We interact as equals."

The relationship between the Americans and Afghans is a result of respect and tolerance from both sides, Snodgrass said. "Major Ghabar has 27 years military experience," he said. "He knows a lot about leading troops and warfare. What he doesn't have full knowledge of is how to manage a warehouse of this magnitude, to take care of the logistics of supplying a hospital and an entire region with 30,000 troops. So, that's why I'm here, to help him become familiar with the various processes." Snodgrass pointed out that the Americans are not there to impose their way of life on the Afghan people. Instead, they are learning from each other.

"We've had a lot of conversations about our different cultures," he said. "They wanted to know about some of the Christian holidays I celebrate. It's not a big deal to them that I practice a different religion than they do."

At the same time, Snodgrass and his team of Americans try to accommodate the Islamic traditions of the Afghans into their work. "We try to work around their prayer schedule," he said. "Sometimes, we have to keep working through the prayer times, but then we step away and give them their space to lay out their prayer rugs and do what they need to do. We try to be aware of their holidays, too. For example, I won't eat or drink in front of them during Ramadan, when they fast. When it comes down to it, it's just about respecting each other."

Snodgrass said he is confident about Ghabar's leadership, and that the hospital and its warehouse will do well in the future as the Afghans gain experience in stocking and equipping such a vital mission. "What we are doing here is just part of an overall mission to help Afghans stand up a viable, safe, world-class healthcare system," he said. "The day they can take on these operations themselves without our assistance will be a very good day for all of us."

Photo - U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Doug Suddueth (bottom left) and Army Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rivas move a load of medical equipment to a truck Aug. 18 in Afghanistan. Suddueth is deployed from Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Rivas is deployed from Fort Sam Houston, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi.

Source: US Air Force. (I couldn't find an exact source, but this is a very good article.) Digg! Digg!

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