Afghan air force flight medics provide medical care, boost confidence
October 7, 2013
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Oct. 7, 2013) -- Two Afghan air force flight medics from the Kandahar Air Wing, used their medical skills to treat an injured Afghan soldier during a casualty evacuation mission with their NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan advisers Sept. 23.
The NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan, or NATC-A, advisers of the 738th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group, have been stepping back as the Kandahar Air Wing steps up and executes more casualty evacuation, known as casevac, missions on their own with minimal oversight from their advisers.
"Today was one of our typically short-notice casevac missions," said Lt. Col. John McBeth, 738th AEAG flight surgeon. "We got a seven-line casevac request from the vicinity of Ghorak. We were notified that there were three causalities -- all severely injured."
Immediately upon receiving the casualty evacuation notification, pilots, gunners and medics conducted a pre-mission brief and prepared their Afghan Air Force Mi-17 aircraft as the official 7-line medical request was confirmed.
"It turned out to be only one critically wounded patient and one killed soldier," said McBeth. "The patient we picked up had a severe blast injury to his face and a lower extremity wound. This type of wound is well within the Kandahar Air Wing medic's capabilities."
Afghan Air Force flight medics Sgt. Kamran Saboon and soldier Saddam Parishan served as flight medics during this casevac mission.
"We have the job of checking their blood pressure, pulse and breathing to see if he needs more oxygen," said Saboon. "The good thing is that the injuries were not too serious. He was OK."
Part of the success of the casevac mission is due to medics on the ground treating the injured soldiers immediately at the point of contact, applying tourniquets or administering intravenous medication.
The medics also transported the injured to the nearest forward operating base and secured a safe landing zone for the helicopter.
McBeth explained that it is a fast-paced environment in the first few minutes, from when they receive the patient from the ground medics, to transporting the patient inside the helicopter.
"The bulk of the work for the medics is within the first 10 minutes of the flight -- getting the patient secured, rechecking everything that was done in the field, getting the IV going," he said. "All of that happens pretty quickly."
McBeth's role as the flight doctor is to serve as an adviser. It is rare for him to have hands on a patient. If he is concerned about the patient, he may prompt the medics by asking them questions about the patient's blood pressure or oxygen level.
Saboon said he is confident in his own abilities as a flight medic.
"I have no problem flying without coalition forces," said Saboon.
"The Afghan medics are good at what they do and they are prepared to do this mission on their own," said McBeth. "When I am not flying on the 'all-Afghan missions,' they do just fine."
An all-Afghan crew, without coalition forces advisers, is new, but becoming more common.
"Last week we were alerted and we were ready to step at the last minute," said McBeth. "The Kandahar Air Wing said, 'Hey you know what, we can make two full crews. We got this.' They did the mission on their own with no partner or support."
McBeth enjoys the opportunity to help the Afghans help themselves.
"It's a personally and professionally rewarding mission anytime you are out saving lives. You just can't go wrong with it," he said. "The commanders at the Afghan Corps have expressed that they like knowing we are here and that someone is going to get them off the battlefield. I think they take pride in the fact that an all-Afghan crew is coming to help them."
Saboon echoed McBeth in the enjoyment he takes in his job.
"I am really happy and proud of my job because I am helping people," he said. "I love it."