US medical advisers help ANA improve medical capabilities
June 4, 2013
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The first security force assistance brigade in Afghanistan is made up of numerous advisers helping the Afghan National Army as they become self reliant. The mentors work hand-in-hand with their counterparts providing the ANA with rotary wing, air force aviation, intelligence and medical support.
The medical advisers assigned to the Company C, 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division based out of Fort Hood, Texas, are mentoring the ANA medical staff as they provide comprehensive medical care to their soldiers, allowing them to stay mission ready.
U.S. Army Capt. Esmerelda Linan is the medical sustainment adviser to ANA Col. Shahidullah Akbari, the corps surgeon for the 201st Corps. They work together to develop the clinic staff and improve the troop medical clinics assigned to the 201st Corps.
Akbari is the officer in charge of the ANA medical brigades in 7 provinces of Afghanistan. He has more than eight years of experience working with coalition forces. Akbari said he has developed a good partnership with his adviser, Capt. Linan.
"Our mentors have given us a golden opportunity to learn and improve our medical capabilities," said Akbari.
Linan travels to the ANA side of Forward Operating Base Gamberi as many times as she can to meet with and advise her ANA counterpart. Linan also serves as commander for Company C, 27th BSB, 4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division.
During her time serving as medical adviser, she has witnessed the progression of the ANA medical clinic staff. With improved communication among the different ANA sections, medical evacuation (medevac) and casualty evacuation (casevac), time has been greatly reduced.
Linan said when she first arrived at FOB Gamberi, the request process would take the ANA between 48 and 72 hours to medevac a casualty. It now takes them approximately four hours to medevac a patient.
Linan has many goals as adviser to Col. Akbari. In addition to upgrading the 201st Corps medical facilities, she has helped to improve the relationship between the ANA, the Afghan ministry of public health and provincial chief of public health.
She said she has a good working relationship with Akbari because he looks past her gender and rank, instead focusing on her vast medical experience.
"I am impressed by his desire to learn and improve," said Linan. "He is very proud, and wants the ANA to advance and Afghanistan to improve, as well."
Linan said Akbari is very appreciative of the guidance she provides.
"If he were to be lazy or have bad work ethic, my time as an adviser wouldn't be as rewarding as it has been," said Linan.
Col. Akbari said the TMC has gone through tremendous changes since he first arrived nine months ago. He said he took it upon himself to do his best to improve the facility. The first project was to organize the warehouse used for pharmacy supplies.
"When I first walked through the different sections everything was in a bad status. We now have full accountability for the medications," said Akbari. "We have done as much as we could to improve the TMC. We now have a dental office, a lab tech room, an X-ray room, and emergency room."
The medical clinic recently acquired an an anesthesia machine from Kabul. Akbari said compared to other TMCs in the brigade, Gamberi is the best. His goal is to have every TMC in 201st Corps upgraded to help sick and injured soldiers.
"Nine months ago, if an ANA soldier was injured, our only option was to take him to Kabul. Now we have the option of taking care of the patient here," said Akbari.
During his time as the 201st Corps surgeon, Akbari has worked with two advisers and said he appreciates their help. Nine months ago the clinic had many problems, and with the adviser support they have found solutions for most of those problems.
"Having an adviser in my section has been very useful," said Akbari. "If I encounter a problem, my adviser and I work together to find a solution.
The improvements don't stop at Gamberi. Akbari said more medical facilities assigned to the 201st Corps are being upgraded. He said it is imperative the 201st Corps continues to improve.
"For me, treating my people is very important," said Akbari. "The public paid for my college and military training and now I have to work for the Afghan people and for this country."
As Task Force Longknife reaches closer to the end of their deployment to Afghanistan, Linan has seen the positive impact her role as an adviser has been for the ANA. The native of Corpus Christi, Texas, looks forward to reuniting with her friends and family and said working as an adviser has been rewarding in many ways.
"I knew I would be affected by this job, but I didn't know it would be this big," said Linan. "My experience as an adviser has been good, I've learned a lot."