KABUL, Afghanistan, July 15, 2015 - NATO forces here work every day with their Afghan counterparts to forge a professional and capable aviation force. As part of that effort, 10 Afghan National Army flight medics and one flight nurse did hands-on training in a C-130 Hercules at Hamid Karzai International Airport here July 9.
The day started with reconfiguring the cargo compartment from netted seating to metal stanchions that hold stretchers for a medical evacuation, or medevac, flight.
Advisers from the Train, Advise and Assist Command-Air, or TAAC-Air, under NATO's Resolute Support mission, host weekly training with Afghan flight medics. U.S. Air Force aeromedical evacuation experts, such as Master Sgt. Matthew Scott, an emergency room manager at his home station who is currently the senior enlisted adviser at the nearby NATO clinic in Kabul, also help with the training.
"I am in their country, and I am not telling them how they need to do something," Scott said. "I'm just pointing out a way to do something the U.S. has been perfecting for years and how to be safe and keep their patients safe as well. I really enjoy the feeling when the information we are teaching 'clicks' and they understand the importance of what we are telling them."
Scott said most of the time the new medics will sit back and watch while the experienced medics do everything.
"We are working to get the young medics involved and get them (participating) so they can assist the experienced medics and soon do it by themselves," Scott said. "The Afghan flight medics are the 'cream of the crop,' and we are trying to instill that pride and teamwork into them. There are a very select few who get to do that job, the same within the (U.S. Air Force), so we want them to have that same swagger and pride."
The Afghan medics receive basic medical training through the National Medical Hospital, and the TAAC-Air advisers provide additional instruction to hone skills and teach new techniques. The goal is to build a formal sustainment training plan.
In a recent aeromedical evacuation, or AE, evaluation, along with inflight observations, it was evident basic patient movement fundamentals needed some refresher, said Col. (Dr.) Sarady Tan, TAAC-Air command surgeon general.
"I believe the training is better indoctrinated when verbal instruction is in conjunction with hands-on experience," Tan said.
"Although the Afghan's medevac and AE system are still growing, they are able to accomplish a complex mission in support of (Afghan National Defense and Security Forces)."
The Afghan Air Force, or AAF, has come a long way from zero personnel, resources and capability in 2009, to being the lead agent for all fixed wing medical evacuation missions as of January 2013, Tan said.
"I'm on the ground floor developing the foundation for a robust AAF medical service (that will) generate and sustain the human weapon system for the AAF," as they support Afghan forces and their government, he said.
Scott said the training is not only beneficial to the Afghan medics, but is rewarding to him as well. He said he was in Kabul in 2011 and is now back for another go at making a difference in people's lives here.
"I love doing this ... Too often we all come here to do a job but never let the people know (back home) what kind of difference we are actually making in this country and in the lives of the people we interact with," Scott said. "The sky is the limit for these medics, and they will continue to get better and learn. I am just proud to be a part of a cause that is making a difference for this country and cementing the fact that other military may not have to come here if the job I do is efficient."
As another example of how NATO is supporting Afghan medical efforts, staff from the Resolute Support mission earlier this month transferred about $150,000 in pharmaceuticals to the Afghan National Police, who will use them in treating battlefield casualties throughout Afghanistan.
The medicine had been left behind when a NATO medical facility at the Kabul airport closed in December. Resolute Support staff worked with legal advisers and others to green-light the transfer of medical supplies. They inspected and inventoried hundreds of individual medicines, including common pain relievers and powerful antibiotics, that had been stored in a warehouse. They then worked with the Afghan police's medical depot in Kabul who identified hundreds of medicines that they needed.
"It took a lot of coordinated effort of several NATO countries," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Evyn Helber, RS medical adviser. "They received over 160 line items of medications which is more than 3,000 individual items which will definitely help support [the Afghan police] during the fighting season."
Dr. Safi Furahman, commander of the Afghan National Police medical depot, said, "The medicine that we get here is going to be used to treat soldiers who are wounded in campaigns all around Afghanistan. We are thankful for the assistance in receiving this medicine and know it will go to good use."
(Tommy Fuller, Resolute Support Public Affairs, contributed to this report.)