Spc. Mark VanGerpen
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As mortar rounds were traded between the Afghan National Army and enemy fighters, the call came in that an ANA soldier had been injured.
Akbar Haman, a medic with 3rd Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 203rd Corps, took a team of five soldiers and responded to the call, crossing Combat Outpost Zerok under fire to reach the casualty.
Haman performed a rapid trauma assessment on him, checking the casualty for breathing, pain, whether he could move and whether he was fully conscious.
The casualty could talk – a good sign the airway wasn’t obstructed.
He was seriously wounded, though, and the extent of the injury could not be confirmed until the soldier got to a hospital, so the team bore the casualty on a litter back to Zerok’s aid station to be airlifted out.
On several occasions during Operation Zafar, a 10-day security patrol into the Nikeh District, ANA medics took a clear lead on first response procedures for combat casualty care, with American forces working with them primarily as advisers.
Sgt. Tomas Martinez, a medic with Green 3 Security Force Advisory Team, 2nd Security Forces Assistance Brigade, met Haman at the aid station and rechecked the patient, but the team had already covered the basics and had the casualty nearly ready for evacuation.
Martinez helped Haman check the patient’s vital signs and administer a breathing tube to ensure the patient’s airway stayed open. Otherwise, they had done everything correctly, he said.
“The ANA are making progress,” Martinez said. “With a little more training and the right equipment, they could be very profictient.”
He stood back while Haman monitored the patient for any changes. Haman talked reassuringly with the patient, making sure he was as comfortable as possible.
The care he showed was a sign of his quality as a medic, Martinez said.
“The most important thing about being a medic is caring, because if you care about somebody, you will do your best toward that patient,” he said. “You’ll make sure that everything is done correctly. Otherwise you’re just checking the block.”
The ANA medics’ performance shows growing proficiency and confidence in their combat medical skills as they take the lead on combat casualty care, said Capt. Markel Hall, logistics adviser with Green 3.
Along with Haman’s quality of care, the speed at which he and his team worked was critical to the patient. The patient was evacuated in about 45 minutes, well within the medics’ “golden hour.”
A patient who is moved from the battlefield to level two or surgical care within an hour of being injured has a better chance of full recovery, Martinez said.
“It went great,” Hall said about the medevac operation. “It showed coordination between coalition and Afghan National Security Forces to assist and advise during combat medical operations and procedures.”
The ANA’s proficiency in first response procedures is a sign of their growing readiness to take control of medical care outside the wire, Martinez said.