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A team of Afghan National Army and U.S. Air Force medical personnel made strides to alleviate that pain in the Darreh Village of eastern Afghanistan’s Paktya province, as they hosted a Village Medical Outreach, March 31.
Staged at a local school, the outreach offered free medical care to the citizens, who have no permanent, local medical facility to access for any type of treatment.
The event brought in more than 450 patients: men, women and children, including approximately 200 children who received immunizations.
“This is an opportunity to get the doctors at the ANA hospital to see and treat some of the villagers that don’t have access to medical care,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bernard Vanpelt, a St. Louis native and pharmacist with the U.S. Air Force Medical Embedded Training Team.
The medical team consisted of dentists, optometrists, emergency room doctors, pharmacists, nurses and medical technicians who performed basic examinations for current ailments.
“This is comparable to a free clinic like we have in the states,” said LaOtto, Ind native U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Harding, a medic with the MED ETT.
The most common reported ailment was chronic pain, followed by requests for toothpaste and toothbrushes, sunscreen, lotion, and protective lip balm.
“Even though we may not be able to cure everyone that came in, they appreciated us taking the time to see them and do what we can,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Jana Kokkonen, a MED ETT emergency room physician from San Luis Obispo, Calif.
“It is not as easy for the women to get follow-up treatment. I referred one woman to Kabul because at FOB Thunder, the ANA do not treat women,” added Kokkonen.
For security reasons the services could not be advertised in advance. This didn’t stop the ANA from getting the word out to the local villagers. They trekked up a mountain about 1.5 miles to spread the word about medical services offered and to encourage them to come in for treatment. They were accompanied by U.S. Army 17th Fires Brigade personnel from the Counter Improvised Explosive Device Unit, out of Fort Lewis, Wash., who waited outside the village for the dismounted patrol to return to the school.
Between one-half and two-thirds of the patients were from passing traffic. Once the word got out, people arrived by foot, taxi, shuttle, donkey and whatever means possible. Some, who could not make it on their own, were carried in on the back of their friends.
According to medical personnel who had participated in previous medical outreach programs, publicizing the events to far in advance was too dangerous. Almost always it brought insurgents out to stop the good will and to harm the local Afghans in addition to ANSF and Coalition forces.
In spite of these insurgent attempts to thwart progress and healthcare services, the ANA and ISAF personnel plan to continue conducting medical outreach programs in the villages of Paktya.
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