Building the Future of Afghanistan, One Stitch at a Time

By MC1 Patrick Gordon, NMCB 25 Public Affairs

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Interpreter Amy Adl (far left) watches as ANA 2nd Lt. Fardin Poyah (center) practices suturing techniques on a butchered cow’s leg under the instruction of HMC (SCW) Jeffrey Loftus , NMCB 25, in the ANA Combat Medic Course taught by battalion personnel at Camp Ghazi, Afghanistan, May 20. Photos by MC1 Patrick Gordon

Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 25 have been working diligently for months with the Afghan National Engineer Brigade to train engineers in the skills necessary to rebuild Afghanistan. But amid the sounds of banging hammers and whirring power tools, a different training is taking place with members of the battalion. In a small classroom on camp, one hospital corpsman, two translators and many eager students are learning the intricacies of lifesaving in the Afghan National Army (ANA) Combat Medic Course

“What we’re doing here is using the Afghan National Army Combat Medic Course to help assist the training of medics and, more importantly, we’re facilitating the instructors,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman (SCW) Jeffrey Loftus, NMCB 25 medical trainer at Camp Ghazi. “It’s a little bit of everything.”

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An ANA soldier (left) practices suturing techniques on a butchered cow’s leg under the guidance of HMC (SCW) Jeffery Loftus, NMCB 25, during the ANA Combat Medic Course.

The goal of the course is two-fold: have trained medics within the ANA provide necessary lifesaving on the battlefield; and have a cadre of medical trainers able to pass on knowledge within the ANA. Loftus explained that the training is more involved than a basic combat lifesaver course; intensive lessons on anatomy, physiology, clinical assessments, casualty combat care and minor procedural surgery are covered in the eight-week course.

“It’s going excellent, better than I thought it would, actually. The students are very involved, they want to learn…in fact our class size is growing – we’re getting more students every day,” said Loftus.

The students enthusiastically take to the material and practice it until they become trainers themselves, said Loftus. One student in particular, ANA 2nd Lt. Fardin Poyah, has stood out among his peers in the course.

“What I can do is give him a little bit of material, have it translated into Dari, and then he presents it and teaches it to the rest of the students,” said Loftus of Poyah. “And that’s what we want to continue; we want to be able to have the Afghan National Army continue to train and make their own medics.”

Poyah takes his role in the class seriously. Since establishing the NEB clinic at Gahzi, he has taken the instruction from the Seabees to heart in order to offer his comrades the best training, for themselves and Afghanistan as a whole.

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ANA soldiers practice suturing techniques on butchered cows’ legs in the ANA Combat Medic Course taught by NMCB 25 personnel at Camp Ghazi, Afghanistan.

“We need the support and cooperation of the engineering brigade advisors [Seabees] because our brigade is new and the Seabees are experts with experience,” said Poyah. “This training has a key role because one man trained can pass the training to others in curative medicine, preventive medicine and combat lifesaving lessons. They can also treat their own families when they get sick…if there is an accident or natural disaster.”

Graduates receive certification through NMCB 25 and a patch recognizing them as official medics within the ANA. The top eight graduates of each class go on to a six-week trainer/instructor class, also facilitated by Loftus.

And once NMCB 25 eventually leaves Afghanistan, the battalion will know they left an indelible and positive mark on the people of Afghanistan.

“The advisors [NMCB 25] are very patient with us,” said Poyah. “And the opinions and information they have they share with us [so we can] teach our soldiers properly in the future. We are thankful to the Seabee advisors.

“That is why we hope to have support as well in the future because our brigade is like a child – it is new and needing support,” he continued. “Once [the ANA soldiers] finish, they can support their own individual units, and possibly civilians.”

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ANA 2nd Lt. Fardin Poyah, Afghan Engineering Construction Kandak medic, instructs his fellow students in the ANA Combat Medic Course led by NMCB 25 personnel at Camp Ghazi, Afghanistan, May 20. Student participation is key to the instruction, as they take lessons learned in the course to train fellow soldiers and medics. 

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