Lance Corporal John Zoumides, a medic with 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) at a patrol base in Sangin, writes about teaching medical skills to soldiers of the Afghan National Army.
This week we went out on a lot of patrols in the so-called “Green Zone” in Sangin, where we are based, for lots of different missions. It is very green up here, with lots of crops growing and irrigation channels everywhere.
We spend a lot of time walking in the water which always makes me worry for the guys’ feet. I don’t want them to develop trenchfoot. We make sure we dry everything thoroughly after every patrol. It helps that it is so hot.
Because I am the team medic I have to be ready for any eventuality and I carry about 25kg of medical equipment and supplies in my rucksack. I also carry one of the ladders we use to get up and over compound walls because a lot of my guys have packs far heavier than mine. It can get really hot so it is far better if we patrol in the early morning or evenings.
People ask me if it worries me, dealing with injured people, especially when it is your friends. But you really do go into work mode and nothing matters except getting everyone to safety and looking after anyone who has been hurt. It helps that this isn’t my first tour. I have already done two tours of Iraq and I have been in Afghanistan before. So you do get a bit inured to it all. And on most patrols my medical skills are not required at all.
One day a week I train the Afghan National Army (ANA) Officers who share our base in medical skills. I teach them how to control arterial bleeding and the importance of checking airways if someone is hurt. They always listen very carefully. I don’t think anyone taught them this stuff before.
I also look after their health if they are ill. They know to come and seek me out if they need something. Usually it is just cuts and bruises. But if it was something else I would treat them. We work as a team and we share the resources.
Because our base is close to the 611 we see a lot of the locals, which I really like. The children are so beautiful. Most of the locals are friendly. Sometimes we have to stop them and talk to them and they are always polite.