ANA Medics Graduate New Combat Medic Class

Forward Operating Base Huey, Afghanistan December 14, 2007 (Daniel M. Rangel Digital Video and Imagery Distributing System): The first class of medics from the Afghan National Army's 201st Corps, 3rd Brigade, 5th Kandak (battalion) graduated from a combat medic class during a ceremony held in Nangarhar Province Dec. 8.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul MacKenzie, senior advisor to the ANA 201st Corps, 3rd Brigade, spoke during the graduation ceremony.

"You are learning important skills to not only share with your soldiers, but also to share with your communities throughout Afghanistan, wherever you are stationed, and wherever you go throughout your professional life," MacKenzie said.

"What we are trying to do is not only make you more complete medics and soldiers, but also in our own way, trying to make you better citizens of Afghanistan," Mackenzie said. "Because, the duty of any citizen of a country is to contribute to that country the best that you can with the skills that you have."

The class was designed to bring Afghans closer to self-sufficiency. Mackenzie expressed this idea in his remarks.

"When your unit goes to a shura to meet with the local people and they come to you and they say, 'I have a child who has an injury. Where are the Americans to help us?' You can say, 'I can help you. You don't need the Americans. I have the skills," MacKenzie said.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jason Brooks, Company C, Brigade Support Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, who is the senior enlisted person working at the medical clinic at FOB Fenty, was instrumental in putting the five-day class together.

"They've learned everything from how to clear an airway, to trauma assessment, to using different types of bandages and wound dressings to stop bleeding," Brooks, a native of Tulsa, Okla., said. "They're learning a basic level, which is basically a combat-lifesaver level. There's going to be an intermediate and advanced course, which will have more medical tasks and be more like what a U.S. Army medic does."

Brooks is optimistic about the future of the class and has already scheduled a new class for the day after graduation.

"There's been nine soldiers through the class so far and we have another class of 10 more starting tomorrow," Brooks said. "They really picked up the information quickly. There were some classes I thought were going to take a lot longer and be harder to grasp, but we've had outstanding interpreters and support from the ANA medical officers."

Spc. Eric S. Detrick, Co. C, BSB, 173rd ABCT, was also a member of the three-Soldier Embedded Training Team who conducted the class.

"We've just been trying to get these guys some good training so they can save some lives out there," Detrick, a native of Fresno, Calif., said. "Without the medical skills that we're giving them, they wouldn’t be able to help their guys out and try and save their lives."

Detrick explained that the team's most daunting challenge was the language barrier. At least it was at first, but, with the right help, the challenge was quickly overcome.

"We were kind of worried that some medical terms that we would use wouldn't be recognized in their language, but the interpreters were awesome in describing what we were trying to get across to them," Detrick said. "We weren't sure if they were going to know the term trachea and words like that."

ANA Soldier Muhammad Quasim, who participated in the class, understands the importance of using the knowledge he has been given.

"It's great because during battle we're going to have casualties," Quasim said. "But, by doing this, we can save the life of that person."

Quasim also understands the students can take their knowledge and help their local communities.

"It's a benefit to us and our village because if some person becomes sick or injured, we can treat them,” Quasim said. “We’re very proud of that."

Army Master Sgt. Eric C. Post, a Grand Rapids, Mich. native living in Detroit, and advisor to the Afghan National Army 3rd Brigade Surgeon, led the team of ETT mentors.

Post expressed his desire to see the class grow to the point where the students can become the teachers so the ANA will become more independent of Coaliton forces' help.

"We want to identify the top-notch soldiers and make a teaching class to train the trainer," Post said.

Before beginning the graduation ceremony, Post paid perhaps the biggest compliment one soldier can pay to another that demonstrated his confidence in his ANA students.

Post said to the class, "I will fight with you any day."