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Afghan Army Soldiers Support Children's Hospital

By Sgt. 1st Class Mack Davis, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

POL-E-CHARKHI, Afghanistan, Nov. 29, 2004 – Afghan National Army soldiers with the 3rd Brigade from Pol-e-Charkhi are learning to appreciate what it means to do a little extra for their fellow citizens.

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An Afghan National Army soldier hands a few items to a hospitalized child at the Kabul Children's Hospital, in Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mack Davis, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The soldiers want the people of Afghanistan to know they will be there for them in the big ways, such as when they defend the country and battle terrorists, and that they will be there for them at other times, too -- times when they give something back to their country in small ways.

One way they are doing this is at the Kabul Children's Hospital. The ANA's 3rd Brigade is sponsoring the hospital through many projects intended to get the hospital in better shape and enabling it to provide enhanced support for local children.

According to New Hampshire Army National Guardsman Lt. Col. Christopher Conley, medical advisor for the 3rd Brigade Embedded Training Team staff, the situation at the hospital was brought to the brigade's attention by Zazzi Rullah, the 3rd Brigade's ANA surgeon.

Built by India in 1975, the disadvantaged hospital was in need of serious assistance. Rullah explained that the hospital has 350 beds for children and services approximately 1,000 outpatients.

Shortly after receiving this information, Conley and staff members of the ANA met with Rohullah Rasekn, the hospital's director, to conduct an assessment.

"The day we went to the hospital the weather was very cool, and the children's rooms we visited were ice cold," said Conley.

Once approval was obtained, heaters were purchased using a Commander's Emergency Response Program fund. One hundred heaters were taken to the hospital and installed by ANA soldiers with help from the hospital's electrician.

"The heaters were a welcome sight," said Mary, a 17-year veteran head nurse of the hospital. "The few heaters we did have were operated on fuel, and they left smoke in the air. The cleaner electric heaters are more efficient and are better for the children."

In addition to installing the heaters, the ANA soldiers also help with cleaning projects, prepping the hospital to get a fresh coat of paint. They also regularly visit the hospital to deliver candy and gifts to ill children.

"We wanted to do more than just buy heaters and install them," said an ANA company commander. "We wanted a project we could invest some long-term time in."

The 3rd Brigade headquarters requests each kandak (battalion) in the brigade to provide five to six soldiers to help when a visit is scheduled.

Mohammad Khan, a 3rd Brigade soldier, said he likes coming to the hospital to help. "It takes away from the normal day-to-day of soldering at Pol-e-Charkhi. I like seeing the people and bring gifts and supplies to the sick children."

"I think this is an outstanding project for the ANA to support," said Conley. "This is the only hospital in Afghanistan to treat only children and is truly a bona fide emergency.

"Now that the Americans have helped with setting the program up, it belongs strictly to the ANA. We come along as needed to forecast CERP funds," said Conley.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Mack Davis is assigned to the Office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageA mother sits with her sick child at the Kabul Children's Hospital, in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Army's 3rd Brigade is sponsoring the hospital. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mack Davis, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAfghan National Army soldiers give a hallway in the Kabul Children's Hospital a good cleaning. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mack Davis, USA  
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