BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – It's a common drill with an uncommon twist for Maj.(Dr.) Mohamad Haque, a U.S. Army surgeon, and his team of doctors, nurses and medics at Forward Operating Base Naray, Afghanistan.
Over a handheld radio comes a call from the tactical operations center. "There is a woman in need of immediate medical attention at the front gate. She's been shot."
Naray is a long way from Bagram, the main supply and medical hub for coalition forces in Afghanistan. The nearest coalition presence is at Asadabad, almost 120 kilometers to the south. There is one central dirt road that runs north to south following the Kunar / Nuristan River Valley. The patient's travels took two hours from the town of Nishigam to the medical care at Naray.
Medics Sgt. Cody Vernon, Spec. Peter Lee and Pfc. Elizabeth Marsteller hurried to the entry control point and found a bleeding woman with a large caliber gunshot wound to her abdomen accompanied by her anxious husband. The woman was transferred to an Afghan National Army ambulance and driven to the medical tent.
On arrival, a combined team of medics from 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, and 160th Forward Surgical Team rapidly evaluated her and found the gunshot wound but also discovered that she was pregnant and full term. The gunshot was to the central abdomen. The team proceeded quickly, collecting information from the patient and husband. Saving the mother offers the best chance of saving the baby.
She was rushed to the operating room where she was anesthetized by Maj. Warren Cusick. The surgical team of Maj. (Dr.) Erick Martell, Cpl. Michael Bega and Haque opened the patient's abdomen and found the only injury was to the enlarged uterus. With no option but to deliver the baby, an emergency Cesarean section was performed with the assistance of Sgt. Ernie Freiermuth.
The baby was handed to emergency nurses Capt. Stephen Schmelzer and Sgt. Augustus Francis, who warmed and resuscitated the infant. The baby had a grazing wound to his buttocks but was otherwise uninjured. Within minutes the baby boy was pink and crying.
The mother, Noor Begum, was brought to the recovery area where she was awakened from anesthesia two hours later. Her first question was "Mashom singa dai," (How is the baby), as the proud father presented her their son.
Reports said criminals near the town of Nishigam had fired AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades at three Afghan cargo trucks, destroying them and their cargo. The pregnant woman and her family were bystanders at the scene of attack. Shots fired at the sedan-style taxi pierced her abdomen, hitting her womb and skimming her unborn child.
Two days later, the baby's father, Walayat Khan, and Noor Begum named their child Abdul Haque. Swaddled in a combination of traditional Afghan garb and American humanitarian assistance baby clothing, mother and child were discharged to their home a few kilometers from Naray, taking a stock of food, blankets and their son's English-Pashto birth certificate.
This is not the first time insurgents have injured innocent Muslims in a war to "defend" Islam, and Soldiers have worked hard to undercut the notion that the coalition is here to destroy Islam.
"The notion that we are here to wage a war on Islam is absolutely ridiculous," said Lt. Col. Michael Howard, 3-71 Cavalry commander. "These criminals have no reason to fight: they are not being taxed without representation, and they are not being oppressed — no one is being unjust to them. And since they have no reason to fight they have made one up: to defend Islam against the Americans.
“Unfortunately, they're fighting for a false cause and doing more harm to local people than they do anyone else," he added.
Since arriving at Naray in early March 2006, the coalition has extended every courtesy to show respect towards all religions. Recently, during Eid-ul-Adha, Soldiers observed the Islamic holiday by hosting celebrations at Naray, at Camp Lybert in the town of Gowardesh and at Camp Keating in the town of Kamdesh. Soldiers shared in the holiday with Afghan people.
Reconstruction projects facilitated by the coalition are in progress everywhere.
"We want to give them something they can touch, see and feel: water, electricity, roads and medical care," said Maj. Thomas Sutton, 3-71 Cavalry executive officer.
Over the past year, 3-71 Cavalry has spent more than $6 million on these types of projects. The effect has been tremendous.
Local leaders now approach the FOB daily requesting to start new projects and often inquire, "Why, if the insurgents are fighting to defend us, are they harming us?"
All Soldiers can do is their jobs as well as they can: help who they can, whenever they can.
From CJTF-76 Public Affairs Office