A team of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Sangin district, Helmand, is busy training Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) medics. The team’s job is to prepare their Afghan counterparts to perform their tasks independently.
“Nobody cares about what you know until they know that you care,” said Lieutenant James Nicholson, Afghan National Army 215th Corps medical advisor with Security Force Assistance Advisor Team (SFAAT). He often congratulates the Afghan medics on a job well done with a handshake and hug after successfully treating a patient. “One of the things we do is providing them with the continued support and recognition of what they do on a day-to-day basis.”
The team of soldiers arrived during the fall of 2013 and have been building the working relationship ever since.
“When we first got here, we didn’t know what to expect. They were testing their boundaries on the things they could do with us and how they were going to react with us. After we opened up to them and gave them our friendship, they gave us their friendship in return, and we just gelled together,” said David Morales, another SFAAT member.
Once the relationship was established, the next step for the team was to advise and prepare them to provide self-sustaining medical care. After several months of training and advising, the soldiers feel the medics are not only capable, but confident in their own abilities.
“When we first got here, they would come down and call us for every emergency they had, even minor lacerations. They would call me for everything,” said Morales. “We’ve mentored them so well, to this point the only thing they call us for now is category ‘A’ patients. They take care of the others all by themselves and do their own evacuations. So I’ve seen them grow a lot.”
One of the strategies the team leans on the most is allowing the Afghans to come up with their own solutions. The soldiers have found that by allowing the Afghans to adapt and overcome on their own they are becoming more independent.
“The ANA tend to be incredibly resourceful,” said Lt Nicholson. “A lot of the times we don’t interfere and allow them to come up with their own solutions. These solutions are long-term and sustainable. Every time they do an excellent job.”
With the “no-interference” stance, the team makes judgments on when to help and how much help to give, depending on if it is really needed.
The team continues to visit the ANA medics daily to offer advice and friendship and is determined to ensure they are ready for fully independent medical care, without coalition forces.
“I am real impressed from the day we got here to where they’re at today. It’s like 100 percent better,” said Morales.