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NEWS | Feb. 6, 2012

Air Force advisers, Afghan aircrew drop medical supplies to rural villages

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

KABUL, Afghanistan (February 6, 2012) — Advisors from the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group and Afghan air force helicopter aircrew, from Shindand Air Base, delivered critical medical supplies Jan. 27 to inhabitants of two remote villages struck by a measles epidemic.

The epidemic claimed the lives of 12 children in the villages of Sarji and Gawkushtah said advisors. The villages are isolated by mountains and the only delivery method possible for the supplies was by air transport.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Stitt, a MI-17 aerial gunner adviser, said that the Afghan aircrew did a great job during the mission and that it made him feel good to help out those in need.

“The mission went well,” he said. “We took five Afghan doctors and 2,200 pounds of medical supplies, coordinated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, were airlifted by the Afghan air force from Chagcharan to the remote villages.”

The team faced many challenges during the mission, explained advisors. In addition to traversing the mountainous terrain, extra precautions had to be taken to ensure none of the Afghan aircrew was exposed to the virus. Stitt said that they were unsure which of the Afghan aircrew had gotten the proper vaccinations. 

The advising team spent time researching measles transmission and decided the unvaccinated crew would stay on board. All of the crew was outfitted with masks and gloves as another safety precaution to prevent the spread of the disease, said Stitt.

The team also had to deal with a difficult landing that involved a white-out landing caused by the snow in the landing zone that was at an altitude of 7,500 feet above sea level.

Stitt said he was very proud of how well everybody worked together.

“The highlight for me was working with our Afghan counterparts to accomplish this mission and bring relief to these two isolated villages,” said Stitt. “It feels good anytime that you get a chance to help someone out, especially when you get to help a village that had already lost 12 children due to the illness.”