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    Countering the Insurgency with Band-aids Instead of Bullets



    Story by Cpl. Zachary Nola 

    Regimental Combat Team-7

    HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Recently during Operation Cobra's Anger, a multi-day operation led by Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, to rid the Now Zad area of Taliban control, members of the company's severe trauma platoon extended an invitation to members of the battalion's civil affairs group to take cover from the rain in their mobile severe trauma bay.

    Within the security and warmth of the STB the members of the two parties began talking about the day's events.

    "We started talking about stuff on the battle front," said Cmdr. Tom Craig, the officer-in-charge of the emergency medical facility, Severe Trauma Platoon 3. "What CAG said was that there were a lot of females that needed to voice complaints and that if we could get a female in the battle zone to talk to these people, we could probably help a lot of folks."

    CAG's observation about the female population was correct. In the Now Zad area medical treatment is scarce, often out of reach and varies in level from town to town.

    Memories of Taliban repression still cause women to second guess leaving their home in search of help. For any type of surgical treatment, women must travel many miles to Lashkar Gah, where they receive no post-operational care and due to cultural practices women in the area are often uncomfortable seeking treatment from men.

    "There is no doctor in the villages of [Khwaja Jamal], Changwalak, and Dehanna that the women feel comfortable going to," said Lt. Amy Zaycek, the severe trauma platoon nurse with the FCT.

    The end result of this scarcity, fear, long distance and potential embarrassment is the women of the Now Zad suffering unnecessarily.

    It is because of this reason, upon returning to his forward operating base, Craig relayed this message to his command at Combat Logistics Regiment 2 and requested female support at his position.

    The response to this request was the Female Corpsman Team an all female medical team consisting of a nurse and three corpsmen.

    "I was on a twelve-hour notice," said Zaycek. "Cobra's Anger had ended, people were coming to the villages, and from what Dr. Craig had gauged, female medical care was needed."

    In the wake of Cobra's Anger the team visited surrounding areas, including the village of Changwalak, which reflected how valuable it was to have female medical personnel on hand.

    "We saw approximately 40 patients there; 27 women and 13 children," said Zaycek a native of Wall, N.J. "Something to gain from that, was that I was told we were seeing women, but the women brought their children. So, that was an unusual circumstance. In addition, it's something that's never gone on before."

    The FCT eventually had to move on to different operations but recently returned to Now Zad on Jan.3 to assist members of the Female Engagement Team, Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan to further the process of treating, educating and engaging the women of Now Zad.

    "The FET is really riding shotgun on this but they only have one female corpsman with them so that is why we requested more help," said Craig from Chesapeake, Va. "Of course seeing how Zaycek and her team were tried and true in the past, the command element picked them."

    Based on the teams last visit to the area the FCT will be confronted with numerous medical conditions ranging from dehydration, to joint and dysentery problems.

    Another area the FCT is tackling is creating instructions for FET members on how to educate Afghan women about basic hygiene principles.

    Ideas include creating a flip book for FET members which will include instructions on how to teach dental hygiene, hand washing, the importance of three meals a day and practices that will prevent clean water from becoming contaminated.

    FCT members are also helping with the effort to re-establish those medical teaching aids which were once in place in Now Zad.

    "Right outside the wire there is a public health area and we were able to find scrolls that had been used four or five years ago as teaching aids," said Zaycek. "The [medical] education was here in this country. It needs to just come back."

    Basic medical assistance is not the only the service the FCT provides. While Now Zad's male population is forthcoming about their physical medical concerns, the area's female population has shown an anxiety about emotional concerns. FET and FCT members have shown the ability to provide the female population an emotional outlet where they can voice mental issues and concerns.

    "What [the FCT] has been able to provide is really, truly an open door. When we've gone out into the villages to see people, [the female population] tend to open up to the female providers," said Craig. "When I looked at the list of complaints that the females were providing to the [FCT] it was fear of Taliban, fear that my son is going to be brought into the Taliban, fear for my family, fear for my home. A lot of fear components which the guys don't say at all."

    Another secondary effect of the FCT is giving female medical personnel valuable field experience and knowledge, through working with the FET, which can be passed to others.

    "It's a good opportunity. A lot of corpsman will never get to come here and will never get to experience this," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Latese Smith, a hospital corpsman with FCT from Chicago, Ill. "I'm looking forward to teaching [the women] to better take care of themselves and their families."

    "We'll take all our lessons learned, our knowledge gained, and give it to [other corpsman]." said Zaycek. "The plan is to train up other corpsman and nurses so they feel comfortable doing these missions in different locations"

    While smaller than most units operating in the Now Zad area, the FCT is showing size doesn't matter. It's not just the impact they are having on the insurgency but the means they are using to make that impact. They are fighting the insurgency with knowledge and band-aids. Not bullets.

    In recent weeks the mood in Now Zad has changed from one of constant tension to one of reconstruction. The area still presents challenges and dangers to both civilians and military forces but the positive results that Afghan national security forces, Lima Co., the FET and FCT have made are undeniable.

    "It touched my heart while we were out in Dehanna seeing the kids come up us." said the 51-year-old Craig. "Knowing that they're actually coming to us, trusting us without fear of retribution from the Taliban, lets me know that's a blow for freedom,"



    Date Taken: 01.06.2010
    Date Posted: 01.06.2010 07:33
    Story ID: 43479

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