War on Terrorism

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Afghanistan: Conn. Guard members get surprise visit while deployed

By Army Sgt. Christopher Harper
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (3/22/12) - During a recent visit from Army Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Capel, Connecticut National Guard Soldiers stationed at Craig Joint Theater Hospital candidly voiced the challenges they face every day, and the pride they have in the work they do here.

Capel, the International Security Assistance Forces and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan senior enlisted advisor, stopped by unannounced March 19 at the Level 3 trauma facility to visit with not just the service members responsible for patient care, but also the patients themselves.

It was an effort to ensure that morale was up and that concerns of front-line troops were addressed, as Capel said, “Make no mistake, you are on the frontline here.”

Soldiers from the 142nd Area Support Medical Company, Connecticut National Guard, make up the hospital’s quick response emergency team here, and Capel thanked them individually and collectively for their hard work and dedication to saving lives.

“You never miss a beat. Why? Because you can’t afford to,” Capel said to the group as he handed each of them a leadership coin.

“It was great that he took the time to really talk with us,” said Army Sgt. Neil Mulligan of the 142nd ASMC. “We’ve had other higher-ups come and visit, but this was different. You can tell he cared.

 Capel continued making his rounds through the hospital’s halls, stopping to shake the hands of everyone from nurses to surgeons and administrators to maintenance workers.

At one stop, Capel awarded a coin to an unconscious Soldier under the care of nurses and doctors in the trauma unit. The Soldier had been severely injured by an improvised explosive device but was stable and awaiting transport to Germany for the next phase of his recovery.

“He’s going to be alright sergeant major; we’ll see to it,” said the Soldier’s attending nurse.

 Giving each person he spoke with his undivided attention, service members asked Capel about simple uniform changes to rumors of future Army policies. Each individual was given more than just a moment of Capel’s time and no question went unanswered, no concern unaddressed.

“Morale is high,” said Capel. “You can’t judge the force’s morale by just talking to the Soldiers who have 90 days or less left on their deployment. You have to make a point to talk and, more importantly listen, to the soldiers who’ve just been here 100 days and still have a long time to go.”

Speaking about the surprise visit by Capel, Mulligan said, “It was a real morale boost for the guys. We were all pumped up.”

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