By Spc. Aaron EllermanJanuary 2, 2014
NEW KABUL COMPOUND, Afghanistan (Jan. 2, 2014) -- The beating of helicopter rotors echoes in the distance. The morning sun, already hanging high over the mountainous backdrop of Kabul, Afghanistan, shines down through the faces of several Afghan National Army soldiers.
Staged alongside a concrete barrier near the helipad, the Afghan National Army, known as the ANA, soldiers wait anxiously for the incoming aircraft to land so they can put their newly learned skills to the test.
During the month of December, the New Kabul Compound, or NKC, team trained approximately 25 ANA soldiers and medical staff on the fundamentals of patient transfers. The training will enable the ANA to take over the task of removing wounded Afghan soldiers from U.S. military helicopters and transporting them to the local Afghan hospital.
The NKC "Bulls" are a volunteer group of service members and civilians stationed here. The team handles casualty transfers responding with the medical team for both mass casualty and evacuation events. The Bulls have also been conducting the patient transfer mission for casualties arriving here en route to the local Afghan hospital.
"Our team is made up of a wide cross-section of individuals including Army, Air Force and civilians from both [U.S. Forces Afghanistan] and 1st Theater Sustainment Command," said Capt. Rachele A. Adkins, an administrative law attorney for the 1st Theater Sustainment Command.
Adkins is the officer-in-charge for the mass casualty response team, as well as the Bulls.
"Our team is more than volunteers filling positions on a team," said Adkins. "Everyone has a true desire to be here doing something meaningful and making an impact. I'm just a lawyer, and yet I'm out there giving blocks of instruction to ANA medics on patient transfers from Black Hawks (helicopters). We all have a desire to go above and beyond what is required of us on this deployment. That's what I love about the team."
The patient transfer training is a small facet of the medical, train, advise, assist, mission that was implemented to ensure that the Afghan forces are fully prepared to assume the security mission after the U.S. withdrawal.
"I saw the potential for a training opportunity that would benefit both the Bulls and our ANA counterparts, and with some coordination, we developed this training," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Malone, a healthcare specialist with the 251st Area Support Medical Company.
Malone, a Charleston, S.C., native, is the non-commissioned officer in charge of the NKC troop medical clinic and the Bulls team.
"I believe it is important to train the ANA to the best of our abilities so that one day they will be able to stand on their own," said Malone. "Our hope is that soon, the ANA will be able to fully take over the patient transfer missions here at NKC."
The training consisted of three phases centered on the Army's preferred "walk, crawl, run" approach. ANA soldiers were first shown safe ways to approach a helicopter, carry a litter, and load it into an ambulance while responding to emergencies such as a loose tourniquet. The soldiers then practiced the newly learned techniques alongside the Bulls, and eventually completed the tasks independently.
"Our training together allowed for the ANA to see how serious the medic team and the [MedEvac] Bulls are about this mission, and how much we care about their wounded," said Adkins.
"I think the best part of the training is watching the ANA work as a team to implement what they've learned, and safely put it into practical use," said Malone.