War on Terrorism

Friday, February 13, 2009

On the Ground: Americans Help Burned Girl, Train Afghans

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 13, 2009 - U.S. servicemembers treated a badly burned Afghan girl, an American contractor trained Afghan soldiers in driving and maintaining combat vehicles, and a provincial reconstruction team provided training for Afghan and prison guards in recent examples of efforts to make both an immediate and a long-term difference in Afghanistan. In the remote mountains of the Deychopan district of Afghanistan's Zabol province, medical emergencies become more devastating. Air Force Staff Sgt. Warren Williamson and Army Spc. David Morris realized this first-hand when the two medics treated a severely burned baby girl.

The girl's uncle carried her to the gates of Forward Operating Base Baylough after local doctors could not help her. The girl was suffering from second- and third-degree burns to her feet and ankles.

The child's right foot lacked reflexes, and the foot was hard and cold. The two medics estimated she had had no blood supply to the foot for 10 to 18 hours. They feared the worst for her other foot, but her left foot was warm with good reflexes. After calling the Wishard Burn Center in Indianapolis for guidance on proper treatment, Williamson, with Morris' help, began to remove dead and damaged skin and clean and dress the wound.

"The atmosphere in the room was frighteningly calm," said Williamson, deployed from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. "We hadn't seen a burned victim this young since we arrived in Afghanistan, but we were trained appropriately to handle this kind of situation."

The girl returned to the base for the next two days to go through the same procedure.

"The treatment given to this little girl was no different than the treatment that would have been rendered to a U.S. soldier," Williams said. "Morris and I were able to give her care that she would not have received in the local clinics, and quite possibly saved her foot. That is a great feeling."

Meanwhile, contractors from Military Professional Resources have designed an eight-week course to teach Afghan National Army soldiers how to drive, maintain and effectively use up-armored Humvees and light tactical vehicles in combat.

The instructors want to give the ANA the capability to be self-sufficient on the battlefield, said Gregory Grant, a team leader for one of the training teams.

Some have observed the Afghan soldiers' quick learning tempo. "They are really good when they get their hands on the equipment," Grant said.

The instructors use demonstration as their primary teaching tool.

"The most effective teaching technique with the [Afghan army] is demonstration, because of the cultural and language barrier," Grant said.

Tasker believes the real benefits will be realized after the students return to their units.

"One of the biggest challenges we face is the language barrier," instructor Ted Tasker said. "But that is why I think the guys going back are going to take it back to their units, and they'll probably be more effective [teachers] because they speak the language, and it is always easier to have your boss teach you."

Because of the training Afghan army Sgt. 1st Class Assnatullah Nezay and his comrades have received, the Afghan sergeant said, he is optimistic about his country's future.

"If the [entire] ANA gets training like we do here, we'll have a very secure country," he said. "We will have good future."

The instructors enjoy reflecting on the impact of their present actions.

"It's rewarding," Tasker said. "It is a historical opportunity for our team to come out here and assist the Afghan government in providing security for their country."

In Panjshir province, about 25 Panjshir Valley Ministry of Justice confinement guards and district training officers received training in cell extraction techniques and riot control from the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team security force members inside the Dashtak Prison.

"This is the first time a PRT has partnered with the prison guards and trainers at Dashtak," said Army Master Sgt. Blue Rowe, Panjshir PRT civil-military affairs noncommissioned officer in charge.

"Our ultimate goal in partnering with the Dashtak prison guards is to provide needed training [to enhance security and governance], be a liaison and ultimately, be good neighbors," Rowe added.

Qurban Muhammed, Dashtak Prison lead training officer, said, "I am so thrilled to have the PRT and the Americans here to train us. It is 100 percent valuable for us; we believe the continued partnership will prove extremely valuable and successful."

Abdul Habib, training officer for the Paryan detaining facility, expressed his gratitude for the training and the value it will have throughout the province. "It allows us to increase our security and governance abilities across the Panjshir province," he said.

"This partnership in training [with the PRT and Dashtak] is only another notch in the wall of successes for Panjshir as they continue to lead the way in Afghanistan in security, governance and development," Tom Kelsey, Panjshir PRT director, said.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases. Air Force 1st Lt. Amber Balken of the Zabol provincial reconstruction team, Army Pfc. Derek L. Kuhn of the 40th Public Affairs Detachment and Air Force Maj. Kimberly Garbett of Task Force Warrior contributed to this article.)

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