KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. Norman McAfee, health services adviser for the Joint Regional Afghan National Police Center, saw a problem last November that needed to be fixed. “Wounded Afghan National Police Patrolmen were dying of wounds before they could receive any medical attention,” said McAfee.
Patrolmen weren’t able to help their wounded buddies because they didn’t know how, McAfee said. “The Police have not had any formal medical training except for a few sporadic individual unit medics teaching versions of combat lifesaver courses.”
So McAfee and other senior coalition medical officials on the JRAC brainstormed and created a plan to teach ANP Patrolmen the basics of providing care for their wounded comrades and named it the Trauma Assistance Medic course.
“After coming to a consensus on what topics to cover, length of course, and who should instruct, the information was packaged and presented to Brig. Gen. Qhandahr Shinwari the ANP surgeon general. [Shinwari] approved the course and asked us to set up a pilot course,” said McAfee
The pilot course was conducted at nearby Camp Nathan Smith, and in February 2011, the program of instruction was approved.
In May, the JRAC hosted its first TAM course with 18 students.
The course is eight weeks in length with 31 modules, seven quizzes, 20 hands-on skills assessments, a final exam and a final practical.
“You can take a test any time you want,” said McAfee, “but they’ll be judged by how well they perform out in the field.”
Students learn how to pack aid bags, conduct patient surveys, treat casualties, and conduct casualty evacuations.
The TAM course is more than just a combat medic course. “They can work in a clinic or a field environment,” said McAfee. “Combat lifesaver is the last portion of the course.”
Graduating students can then go back to their units and teach CLS techniques. “Police officers were dying of their wounds before they could be treated; that’s why CLS is so important,” said McAfee
“The ANP are heavily engaged in the fight on a daily basis in RC-South and take a great number of battle injuries,” said Air Force Maj. Ian Diaz, regional adviser for Regional Commands South and Southwest. “They’re the ones coming into more contact with the Taliban.”
The students come from ANP kandaks, the Afghan equivalent of battalions or squadrons. Kandak leaders are asked to select men from their ranks who have at least third-grade literacy levels. “The average for the students in the course is something from 10th- to 12th-grade,” McAfee said.
The students with lower literacy skills struggle, but in the end, McAfee said, they benefit the most. “They learn a skill and become literate at the same time.”
TAM students are taught simultaneously in both the Dari and Pashtu languages. They’re also given English terms so they can more easily communicate with International Security Assistance Force personnel.
For some of the students, their medical training continues. “Ten of the best and brightest from previous classes will go to the physician assistant’s course at the [Afghan National Army] compound at Camp Hero. It’s a great opportunity for the ANA and ANP to come together towards the goal of [Afghan National Security Forces] healthcare,” said Diaz.
“Those ten students will provide the single most important impact to the ANSF and therefore ANP health care system,” added Diaz.
The course has been taught by Afghans while members of the coalition have provided administrative support, such as taking care of the building, obtaining supplies, grading exams and maintaining grades and reports.
The coalition will continue to provide that administrative support for the remainder of the year. “Our goal is for the course to be Afghan controlled by the time course five rolls around, which begins in January 2012,” said Duffy.
Duffy said the course is already providing positive results
“The Afghan National Police are in the middle of the fight in RC-S and take heavy casualties,” Duff said. “The skills learned by these medics-to-be are being utilized in the field already and being taught by graduates of this program to other policemen in the field. These medics are true lifesavers and force multipliers.”
Graduating students receive a diploma and proficiency pay of 1,250 Afghanis (approximately $25) a month. They also receive an aid bag to perform their duties.
The 36 students in the current course are slated to graduate Oct. 27.