View Full Version : Hearts and Minds

05-13-2004, 21:00

Special Forces clinic treats Afghan citizens

By Sgt. Frank Magni
17th Public Affairs Detachment

KONAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (USASOC News Service, May 13, 2004) — For many in Afghanistan, access to medical care is very limited. A lack of medical training and equipment within community clinics has prompted coalition forces here to send their own medical personnel into communities to assist.

But in Konar Province, these medical aid projects are also being supplemented with an unconventional approach — the same clinic that treats coalition forces at a Special Forces camp here opens its doors to Afghan citizens as well.

The clinic — made up of a doctor, Special Forces medics, Navy and Marine corpsmen and interpreters — treats more than 100 patients a day. Open five days a week for sick call, the clinic’s medics also stay on call around the clock for emergency care of military service members and Afghan locals.

The rise in the clinic’s popularity is simple, said Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Hill, a Special Forces medical sergeant from 1st Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in Salt Lake City, Utah, who is assigned as the clinic’s top medic. “We are the most definitive care facility is the area. We are much better supplied and much better trained than any clinic within hundreds of miles.”

Konar Province, like many areas in Afghanistan, lacks the level of medical care many people are accustomed to throughout the world. With the nearest equivalent medical care facilities located in the neighboring country of Pakistan, crumbling roads, unpredictable weather and a high crime rate can make the journey to see a doctor a difficult undertaking.

“If a family had the means, it would take them one day of travel to see a doctor,” said Hill.

With poverty rampant throughout the province, injuries here often have gone untreated, which contributed to high local mortality rates prior to the clinic’s opening.

Able to handle everything from gunshot wounds and burns to motor vehicle and mine accidents, Hill said he and his team have seen a wide variety of injuries and diseases in their nine months in Afghanistan. “Everything in the book,” he said.

“Whether it is an arm or leg that’s blown off, or passing out soap and toothbrushes, we don’t have the luxury of practicing just one kind of medicine,” said Capt. Brent Hale, the clinic’s doctor and the 1st Bn., 19th SFG surgeon.

Averaging two trauma cases a week, the clinic’s team even has the ability to call in medical evacuation helicopters for more serious cases involving life, limb and loss of eyesight.

Malaria, upper respiratory infections, rare genetic disorders, liver disease and burns round out the laundry list of conditions the medical personnel in the clinic have encountered — with the burns being one of the more common injuries Hill and his team have seen in the prominently agricultural area.

“I’ve had at least 40 to 50 burn patients in my nine months (here),” said Hill. “Many of these cases would require in-patient care in the United States.”

Without skin grafts, burn patients return to the clinic every few days to have infected areas treated and bandages changed, and even with the less-advanced treatment, Hill proudly said he has only lost one patient.

Aside from the success of the clinic, the medics also take part in medical civic action programs throughout the Konar Province. These MEDCAPs, while keeping a focus on treatment, also allow the medics and corpsmen to do other things.

“When we go out on MEDCAPs, we also try to focus on distributing medical supplies to the local care providers along with training,” said Hill. Some of the local care providers have even come to the clinic to obtain training to take back into their communities.

During his time here, Hill said the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan has provided medical equipment, generators, medical supplies and improved medical buildings throughout the province.

Hill estimates he and his team have treated several thousand patients in nine months. He admits that progress has sometimes been slow, but he points to a few indicators that show more people trust the coalition as an ally of the central Afghan government.

First, he has seen the number of women coming to the clinic rise exponentially.
“Women would rarely come to the clinic when I first got here,” said Hill. “Now, they make up close to ten percent of the people we treat.”

Haje Sharin, father of patient Wahida Maslim, said after his daughter was treated at the clinic, “Right now I feel like I’m in America, I’m so happy.”

Hill said it’s feedback like this that keeps him going.

“I feel like without my intervention on a few occasions, people would have died,” he said. “That — and the thank you at the end — make it all worth it.”


The Reaper
05-13-2004, 21:05
Great article NDD, thanks!


Jack Moroney (RIP)
05-14-2004, 08:21
Boy that article brings back a lot of memories. If anyone can break the ice when it comes to gaining ground with the indig it has always been the medics. I had a Montagnard walk 18 kilometers with a broken femur just to come see our medics. Seems that the last time we passed thru his village he had treated his daughter for a nasty skin disease which was "uncureable by the local spirits" so if that worked then a broken leg should be easy to fix. Turns out this guy was the village chief which paid big benefits later when we got them to move their village without the normal human sacrifice that was the norm to appease the lightning god. But that is another story.

Jack Moroney

05-16-2004, 14:10
Great artical! It's so refreshing to read about what our guys are really doing to help bring health and hope to folks who have been on the wrong end of the stick for so long. Where are the pictures of this hearts and minds story, and IDP's loving our guys being there?

I forgot... the media only prints self serving anti-American images. Whatever! :mad:

Thanks to the guys like this who are there, were there, and will be there in the future.


05-23-2004, 16:05
This was emailed to me, and I thought I would share...

"Attached is a picture of one of my best friends in the Army, Mike M. We were privates together in 1990-1994. He stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan Christmas 2002. President Bush came to visit the wounded in the hospital. He told Mike that when he could run a mile, that they would go on a run together. True to his word, he called Mike every month or so to see how he was doing. Well, last week they went on the run, one mile with the President. Not something you'll see in the news, but seeing the President taking the time to say thank you to the wounded and to give hope to one of my best friends was one of the greatest/best things I have seen in my life. It almost sounds like a corny email chain letter, but God bless him."


Flight Surgeon, 1-2 AVN RGT

Medical Corps, U.S. Army

05-23-2004, 18:19
Great stuff Holly. Good job.

05-24-2004, 10:11
Thanks Holly!