News: Mission to Badakhshan
BADAKHSAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Soldiers of 5th Zone Security Force Assistance Team, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, along with medics and support staff also assigned to 37th IBCT, mentored Afghan female nurses in Khwahan, Badakhshan province, Afghanistan, June 3, 2012.
The team took a Chinook helicopter flight from Camp Marmal, Balkh province, over several colorful mountain ranges, to the village of Khwahan. The village rests in a valley in Badakhshan province, less than one mile south of the Turkmenistan border.
Soldiers from the 6th Kandak Afghan Border Police and many Khwahan villagers greeted the soldiers at the landing zone.
U.S. Army Col. Michael Maffei, senior combat adviser for the 5th Zone, 37th IBCT, and Afghan Brig. Gen. Abdul Habib Sayed Khail, commander of 5th Zone ABP, met with the 6th Kandak soldiers upon their arrival.
“We build these missions up. We put as much on to them as we can,” said Maffei. “It may be our only opportunity to succeed. Give it all! If you can take supplies, take supplies. If you can take medical, take medical.”
After moving uphill through the village, Sgt. 1st Class Bethany Ballengee, medical operations non-commissioned officer in charge, assigned to Headquarters Company, 37th IBCT, and Sgt. K. Nichole Wright, medic assigned to Charlie Company, 237th Brigade Support Battalion, 37th IBCT, arrived at the medical facility to mentor three Afghan female medics while they provided care to the women and children.
With respect to their culture, a total of 24 Afghan females were seen behind closed doors and curtains by female medics. The patients included a baby, children, teenagers, young ladies, and women in their late 70s.
“The women were in full burqa and were dressed in Afghan clothing underneath,” Ballengee said. “They were very meek about disrobing. They lifted their sleeves only to allow for a blood pressure cuff and shifted their blouses to allow for the stethoscope. They kept their shemaghs on the entire time.”
Three of the patients had been previously diagnosed with tuberculosis and were in the late stages; therefore, they were untreatable.
The biggest success that Ballengee said she could take away from this mission is that the 37th IBCT medics reassured females who had doubts about their medical staff, that their medical staff was right on track.
The 37th medics were not there to diagnose patients. They worked alongside the Afghan doctor and nurses taking vital signs and clinical assessments.
“When we do these missions, we don’t feel like we’ve done enough,” Maffei said. “To me, that just says these soldiers are dedicated to the mission, they’re passionate about what they do.”
The interaction with the Afghans was the highlight of the mission for Pfc. Daniel S. Thompson, security force soldier assigned to the 5th Zone SFAT, 37th IBCT, who is on his first deployment to Afghanistan.
“While we did our dismounted patrol, we had a whole group of little kids following us,” said Thompson. “There was one little kid standing right next to me, staring at me, so I asked him, ‘How are you?’ in Dari. He just got the biggest grin on his face and quietly said, ‘khoobas’ [good] with a smile.”
“I’m in awe of the trip,” said Ballengee. “The most rewarding part of the trip was seeing the Afghans perform their own MEDCAP [medical civic action program] and treating their own people.”
The 37th IBCT is deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and is slated to return to the United States sometime in fall 2012.
Date Posted:06.30.2012 05:58
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