Thursday, June 4, 2009

Why Afghanistan?

This is a question I ask myself most days. What is it all about? Why are we going? I have learned a TON in the last several weeks about the region, in general, and the long, tumultuous struggle the people have endured. They have been at war for the last 30 years—first the Soviets, then the Taliban and ensuing civil war, and now “occupation” by international forces. I use “occupation” in quotes as we are not there to fight the people of Afghanistan; we are there to liberate them from the Taliban. But some, here and abroad, see it as something else.

Who remembers that many of those involved in the attacks of 9/11 were from Afghanistan? Did you know Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rates in the world? That nearly 80 percent of the population is illiterate? That just a few years ago, more than than 80 percent of the population lacked access to any medical care? That is why we are there. The long-term goal is to leave the people better off than the day we arrived (opposite the goal of those who came before us, when you consider the destruction caused by the Soviets and the Taliban).

So, why is a family nurse practitioner going? And what will I be doing to make the above happen? We—the members of my team and 11 other teams training here with us—are part of something called a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). There are 25 PRT teams spread across Afghanistan, 12 manned by U.S. forces, 13 by other international teams. Our goal is to connect the Afghan people with their government and promote growth throughout each individual province.

In general, it is believed that the insurgents have an easier time manipulating people who are isolated from their govenment and countrymen, so our main responsibility is building roads. We don't actually do the manual labor; we have engineers on our team who help the Afghan locals bid and hire the necessary labor required to complete the job. Throughout the project, we return frequently to ensure adequate quality standards are enforced. We also partner with local leaders, physicians and educators to help meet the basic needs of the villages.

Prior teams have built schools, clinics and government offices. As a whole, the work done by American military and coalition members has enabled more than 50 percent of the population to have access to health care. Now, many more children—boys AND girls—have access to basic education.

I didn't really answer what I am doing, did I? I will wear several hats on this LONG trip. When you include training, it will be at least a year away from home! I am the senior medical advisor to the commander. As a senior ranking member, I also have some responsibility to ensure that everything, in general, runs smoothly. I will provide daily opportunities for our team to receive medical care, organize the necessary medical support for any missions off the relative safety of our home base and develop various medical outreaches to the local communities. In addition, I am constantly preparing for the worst-case scenario by training the entire team on how to respond to battle injuries and save their buddy, if injured. We want to leave in a year knowing we helped the Afghan people of Kapisa province, but our primary goal is to come home with everyone we leave here with.

As the coming year develops, I am sure there will be many more “hats” I will wear. Some days, I am the motivator, the one keeping the group moving forward on a five-mile march. Some days, I'll be the listener as lives back home compete for our attention. Some days, it will be my turn to struggle with the daily stress. Our team has a great sense of humor and lots of variety in skill sets, which will definitely come in handy.

So, readers, what else do you want to know about our upcoming job? About my role? Think I am crazy?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this, Lori - it helps! I'm cross-posting a link on my blog for ya.