News: ANA graduate from preventive medicine course
Story by Bill Putnam
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - In a small ceremony inside a medium tent, five Afghan National Army soldiers and officers took a step toward preventing illnesses in their home kandaks when they graduated from a preventive medicine class Mar. 31.
The two-week train-the-trainer course here, taught by U.S. Navy corpsmen from the Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest with curriculum developed by the JSAS and Regional Support Command Southwest medical advisers, was designed to help the ANA set up preventive medicine programs in their 215th Maiwand Corps kandaks.
Preventive medicine is done to stop diseases and illnesses that can take soldiers off the battlefield. The course covered everything from food and water storage to making sure latrines are kept clean.
U.S. Army Maj. Rod Sanders, a medical adviser with RSC-SW, said most ANA injuries, deaths and illnesses are non-battle related.
“So if we can get a handle on this and prevent all these illnesses that are going around, telling you a huge impact for this country,” Sanders noted.
It was a class of firsts for some of the students. U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Jacob Edwards, a preventive medicine instructor at the JSAS, showed them water from a “gray water” pit where shower water collects. Most of the students had never looked through a microscope before, peered in and saw the organisms in the water.
Edwards said that exercise helped the future lessons click in the students’ minds.
“And I really think we did with that because everything we taught after that we were really able to push back to ‘remember those germs that were down there under the microscope? This is how they get into you, this is how they make you sick,’” Edwards said after the short ceremony.
The course actually went faster than the instructors planned, said Sanders, who also helps teach the ANA combat medic course at the Regional Military Training Center. Sanders helped develop the course with the JSAS instructors and get the course material ready. Given Afghanistan’s high illiteracy rate they didn’t expect this class length to be cut from four to two weeks.
“Our big surprise was that these guys were highly educated, all of them could read, and the thing that really accelerated it was that we didn’t need to translate it into Pashtu because all of them understood Dari,” Sanders said.
The class’s success bodes well for the future of preventive medicine in the 215th Maiwand Corps, Sanders and Jacobs said.
Two of the students, both officers, have been identified to be future instructors, Sanders noted.
Sanders said the course should be managed by the Maiwand Corps, and the Americans will be there “just standing in the corner advising and helping them with it, pulling it together. That’s the plan,” Sanders explained.
“When I go back to my unit I like to get the knowledge, take the knowledge back with me,” ANA 1st Lt. Ghulam Mohammad Basharmal said through a linguist. “The knowledge I take with is me is very important. It’s regarding the cleaning the environment, cleaning the personal, the hygiene. These are very important steps and very basic steps. But this is the knowledge a lot of people don’t really have.”