Saving lives: Afghan Air Force medic team learns “critical” skills

438th Air Expeditionary Wing
Story by Vladimir Potapenko

Date: 02.01.2011
Posted: 02.02.2011 08:33
News ID: 64645
Saving lives: Afghan Air Force medic team learns “critical” skills

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Afghan soldier was in trouble. With his eyes sitting heavy and glazed-over in their sockets, the soldier’s condition had worsened. He now had to be removed from the C-27A Spartan aircraft that had flown to Kandahar to transport him and other Afghan National Security Force troops to Kabul for further medical attention and it had to be done quickly.

Tech. Sgt. Derek Odom, an aero-medical technician advisor with the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing, responded immediately. Quickly explaining the situation to the two Afghan Air Force MEDEVAC personnel, Odom was able to have the injured soldier carried off the aircraft and into a waiting ambulance.

Though in critical condition and possibility suffering from a pneumothorax, a collection of air or gas in the between the lung and the chest wall, the Afghan soldier’s life had been saved due to the efforts of Odom and AAF sergeants Abdul Malik and Fazil Manalha. If he had been on the flight as if had taken off, the soldier’s condition may have been exacerbated en route to Kabul, said Odom.

“I choose to do this job because I am serving my country,” explained Manalha after the MEDEVAC mission delivered the injured troops to Kabul.

“I love my job because those are my Muslim brothers on the battlefield helping stabilize this country, and it is my responsibility to take care of them,” he continued.

And it is a responsibility that Manalha, Malik and Odom take seriously as MEDEVAC technicians.

Twice a week, the two sergeants fly with Odom to various posts in Afghanistan—Shindand, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif—to collect patients who will receive medical treatment in Kabul. Looking after patients during the hours-long flights, the two Afghan flight medics receive hands-on training from their advisor, Odom.

“They are coming along very well. We started at the very bottom and we are building them up,” said Odom.

Through this training, Manalha and Malik have been able to successfully apply what they have been taught during pressure situations such as with the soldier in Kandahar last week.

“I have had several emergency situations with them and they have responded very well. They are eager to learn and they have helped save lives,” said Odom.

“We are proud of ourselves and what we can do. We have learned a lot—reading vital signs, patient care and emergency procedure—and we feel comfortable doing what the situation calls for on these missions,” said Malik, who is working his way to becoming a MEDEVAC instructor.

Malik’s is a pride that comes from understanding the importance of their mission and its connection to the sacrifices made by others on the front-lines, believes Odom.

“We’re the lifeline for those injured. Down in Kandahar, they get them stabilized and we go down and pick them up, opening beds in Kandahar so that more injured Afghan soldiers can be taken care of at the first stage and we can get them and make sure they are taken care of fully,” he said.

“We are standing up the aero-medical evacuation program for the Afghan Air Force. We are making it so that the Afghans can accomplish these missions on their own, and that is a big step in diminishing our [coalition] footprint in the country,” said Odom.