News: Airmen, sailors teach Afghans preventive medicine
Story by Senior Airman Patrick McKenna
HERAT PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The goal of NATO leadership is to help build up Afghanistan's security forces to a total force of approximately 400,000 members. These ANSF will police their streets, defend their borders and protect their fellow citizens. But they can't do any of that if they don't know how to stay healthy.
That's why right now there's a 13 person joint service medical team in western Afghanistan that goes out each day to Afghan National Army and Police medical facilities to mentor Afghan doctors and train ANA and ANP members how to get healthy and stay in the fight.
The Joint Medical Operations Center at Camp Stone, Afghanistan consists of airmen and sailors whose mission has been to train and mentor the Afghan medical providers in the Regional Support Command West region in order to sustain their medical operations far into the future.
Due to successful training, several essential departments at the ANA Hospital in Herat, including patient administration, anesthesiology, internal medicine, radiology, laboratory, and the intensive care unit have now been completely handed over to the Afghans.
"Over the course of the last year there have been seven mentors that have worked themselves out of a job because the Afghans were able to take over those departments," said Navy Cmdr. Kristine Bradsher, JMOC team chief and a native of Laytonsville, Md.
With the successful transition of those departments, the JMOC has now shifted its focus to helping the ANSF build up their skill sets in preventive medicine, vaccine handling and immunizations, sanitation and hygiene, and triage and basic troop medical care.
"We work with ANSF preventive medicine leaders and NCOs and monitor the skills we have taught them," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Tara Crook, JMOC preventive medicine mentor who's deployed from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. "We mentor on food sanitation and hygiene, vector control, prevention of communicable and infectious diseases, and immunization practices."
According to Lt. Col. Hayley Hughes, RSC-West JMOC embedded training team mentor, two important courses being taught to ANSF in RSC-West are a preventive medicine course for NCOs and a Trauma Assistance Program for medics.
Additionally, a new vaccine course with five modules is being implemented. The five modules will cover vaccine storage and handling; vaccine administration; vaccine documentation; vaccine adverse events; and disposal of medical waste including used vials and syringes.
The first of the five modules was recently taught to 19 ANSF doctors and medics.
"Ensuring ANSF forces are immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases not only reduces the disease burden in ANSF forces and Afghans, but reduces the risk of transmission to other countries," said Hughes, who's deployed from Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command at Robins AFB, Ga.
The Afghan medical leadership working with the JMOC expressed their appreciation for the mentoring they feel will have an impact long after coalition forces have left Afghanistan.
"With the cooperation of American mentors, we've made a lot of progress here," said Dr. Mohammad Mustafa, head of the preventive medicine department at the ANA hospital in Herat. "We've learned valuable new skills. These classes in the future will help grow the preventive medicine department here so we can take care of our soldiers and have strong and healthy security forces."
The team has been pleased with the effort they're seeing from their Afghan students as well as their grasp of the material. They say seeing the impact of their work on a daily basis has made this deployment a rewarding experience.
"They know so much already and are doing their best with the resources they have," Crook said. "They are always open to learning more and seeing them operate on their own is truly an awesome thing."
The current JMOC team noted that they're here after five other teams and have built upon the hard work of their predecessors. The Airmen and Sailors that make up the JMOC have come together as a group to begin putting the final touches on their training mission in RSC-West.
"It's truly a team. It doesn't matter what uniform you wear, we're all here to get Afghans sustaining their own medical care, where they can take it on all by themselves and stand on their own two feet," Bradsher said.