LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army and U.S. medics teamed up to test their life-saving skills during a best-medic competition on the ANA Camp Maiwand compound at Forward Operating Base Shank, July 27.
Soldiers participating in the competition included Afghan medics from three units - Garrison Support Unit, 4th Kandak and 5th Kandak of the 3rd Brigade, 203rd ANA Corps – and U.S. Army medics assigned to Company C, 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot. Three, four-person combined partnership teams consisted of two ANA medics and two U.S. medics competing simultaneously in three round-robin events.
The three performance stations broke down into a casualty event, a physical event and an ambulance event. Organizers and judges emphasized safety as more important than speed.
“We also integrated accuracy, teamwork and safety into all of the events as well,” said U.S. Army Capt. Ryan Labio, Company C., 94th BSB commander from San Diego. “I think it was pretty good interaction. We have done lots of training since we arrived here about 10 months ago, so this was just an evaluation of all of the skills that we have taught them (ANA medics) since we arrived here.”
At a casualty station, each team separated into two teams of one ANA and one U.S. medic, assessing, treating and securing one of two casualties – one with a lower-leg injury and one with head injury.
During a timed physical event each medic carried a sandbag up and back down a hill and performed 10 push-ups before the next team member could perform the same task. Then all four medics strapped the sandbags to a litter and carried the litter up and back down the hill.
For a driving event, one member had to drive an ambulance on a course of rough terrain, weaving around pylons then driving back through the course in reverse before parallel parking the vehicle. Teams had an option to have a second team member ground-guide the ambulance driver as he performed the parking maneuver.
“The events were challenges, especially the physical event – running up and down the hill - but everyone did well; and, practice helped a little bit,” said U.S. Army Pfc. Alexander Lopez, a Company C combat medic from Vineland, N.J. “Their (ANA medics) medical skills have come a long way in training with us; so, therefore, they did real well out here today.”
Lopez said all the medics conducted a practice session on the same lanes with the same teams. The ANA medics even conducted extra training on their own to prepare for the competition, he said. Lopez knows how significant the training is for Afghan and U.S. medics alike.
“This is ... very important; because, sooner or later, when we eventually leave this country, they now know different techniques [for] how to treat casualties, how to load them into [Front Line Ambulances] [and] how to transport them,” said Lopez. “It is always good to get out and keep your skills up to par .... It is good to get out and remember how to control breathing and to do the things necessary to save someone’s life.”
Afghan Sgt. Allahnoor is a medic assigned to GSU, 3rd Bde., 203rd ANA Corps. He has almost eight years of experience as an ANA medic and has worked and trained in Jalalabad, Kabul and other areas of eastern Afghanistan.
“We got a lot of experience from each event,” said Allahnoor. “We got a lot of experience, a lot of things, from the U.S. counterparts; and we hope that in the future they will help us and they will support us. That way we can serve our country.”
Labio said events such as the partnered best-medic competition helps his soldiers to be better medics.
“I think it betters those skills, because they have to learn how to teach it; and especially teaching it for a different culture, they have to be able to master those skills and use an interpreter and demonstrate hands-on competence with each of those skills,” said Labio. “They are definitely helpful. It gives the U.S. and the ANA something to look forward to and gives them extra motivation to do their best.”