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Air Force, Navy officers help develop Afghan hospital project

By Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Larlee , 438th Air Expeditionary Wing

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KABUL, Afghanistan (January 31, 2012) — A major step forward for Afghans living near Shindand Air Base, Afghanistan, occurred Jan. 28 during the groundbreaking for a new hospital. The $5 million commander’s emergency response program has an estimated completion timeframe of nine months.

Air Force Maj. Wesley Morris, a comptroller adviser for the 838th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, has been lending his funding expertise to the project. He said working towards planning the hospital has been rewarding and he was excited to be able to assist local Afghans.

“This hospital provides a brand-new capability to the Shindand district and should revolutionize healthcare here,” said Morris. “The hospital will provide women’s care and pediatric care as well emergency services.”

Navy Cmdr. Paul Fermo is the deputy commander of the 838th AEAG and the director of the civil affairs programs at Shindand. He said the project has built a high level of hope for the local populace.

“The locals are extremely excited about this regional hospital,” he said. “Currently, the closest hospital is located in Herat, about an hour’s drive over occasionally unfriendly roads. Just getting there means a loss of time, money and safety.”

Fermo said that civil affairs programs are a key part of the mission in Afghanistan.

“These humanitarian missions are tremendously important to our mission here,” said Fermo. “Humanitarian missions target the essential needs to sustain life: basic health, food, water and security that build a solid foundation for a stable community.”

Fermo went on to explain that efforts were also a great way to discredit anti-government and anti-coalition rhetoric used by the Taliban and other derivative insurgent groups. He said it’s also worthwhile to include the Afghan air force and other Afghan government organizations in the humanitarian process.

“By putting Afghans out front,” he said “We not only promote community goodwill, but more importantly, we build confidence within the local population that the government of Afghanistan is able to administer to their basic needs.”

Fermo said in the Shindand district there is an estimated 400 villages. He said giving Afghans the tools to depend on themselves will make it an easier process for the coalition partners to transfer control of Afghanistan back to them.

Morris said he feels fortunate to be able to work on a project like the hospital.

“The Air Base gets almost daily requests for emergency medical support and every time I’ve gone outside the wire people approach us requesting medical assistance, so there is obviously a serious need here,” he said. “Having the privilege of being involved in enduring humanitarian assistance projects like the hospital, which have the potential to change the future of Shindand, is very rewarding.”