By Marine Corps Cpl. Colby W. Brown
1st Marine Division Public Affairs
GARMSIR DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Sept. 1, 2011 – Marine Corps noncommissioned officers Sgt. LaJuanna Baker and Cpl. Andrea Moreira-Rios were in the right place at the right time.
The two Marines departed Combat Outpost Rankel here to travel to a local health clinic to hand out hygiene packets to Afghan women as part of a civilian assistance program sponsored by the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
While talking to a group of Afghan women, a midwife asked the two Marines to help her deliver a local woman’s baby.
“We were more excited than some of the people who were there,” said Baker, a female engagement team leader and native of Pensacola, Fla. “It was her first-born, her first child, and we were just happy to help her out.”
The two Marines said they provided encouragement to the mother during the delivery. Baker and Moreira-Rios checked the baby after it was born to make sure it was breathing and provided water to the mother. Both mother and child, they said, were found to be medically sound.
Baker said she was impressed with the Afghan mother.
“This woman didn’t receive any pain medication before or during childbirth,” Baker said.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Kimberly Nalepka, the female engagement team’s squad leader, said the event highlights the importance of her unit’s mission in Afghanistan.
“If the FET wasn’t here, then we wouldn’t have been able to engage with the midwife to begin with, let alone help with the birth,” Nalepka said. “As female Marines, we help strengthen relationships in the local communities because we can interact with the women where male Marines can’t. Especially in a case like this, where we helped in the birth of a child.”
Baker said she enjoys her mission in Afghanistan, noting it helps to “spread the word to the local women that females from other countries are here and want to help them.”
The Afghan women she meets, Baker added, are curious and “excited because most of them have never seen American women before.”