Stillwater News Press

February 10, 2010

From Afghanistan: Blood for the Body

Stillwater native Col. Gregory Breazile shares stories of his tour in Afghanistan

By Col. Gregory Breazile
Stillwater NewsPress

— The Afghan army held a graduation today for 12 officers who will establish the medical logistics capability for their fielded forces. 

As I stood and watched the graduation I thought to myself how this event marks another milestone in the development of their forces. Just yesterday I witnessed 568 police officers graduate from their three-year police academy. These graduations demonstrate that the Afghan government, with the help of the coalition forces, understands they must establish sustainable systems to ensure the longevity of their forces. This small medical logisticians’ graduation was actually another monumental leap forward in that direction.

The medical logistics community provides the supplies to regional hospitals and medical facilities around the country. They provide things like medical garments, surgical gloves, pharmaceuticals, needles, bandages, machinery, blood and other supplies required of professional medical organizations.

The risks of not having these required medical supplies increase the chances of infection and death. As the Afghan chief of the medical staff, Major General and Assistant Professor Doctor Ahmad Zia Eftali was speaking to the crowd about the importance of this small community of logisticians he stressed the vital role they will play in the overall development of not only their army but for their country.  

“Medical Logistics is like the blood for the body!” he said.

He was making the point that they need more than doctors, nurses and other health professionals they also need the sustainment capability to support those medical professionals. 

Maj.Gen. Eftali also said, “We can't compromise on this capability since lives are at stake.“ 

He pointed out that the army is the most mature institution in Afghanistan and the logistics systems they establish will provide assistance to the civilian community as well as the Army.

He was very concerned that as they grow their forces to meet their security demands that they must also ensure the medical logistic community maintains pace to keep up with that growth. 

This was the first ever class of professional medical logisticians for their army. This class used the same curriculum as the U.S. Army uses for their medical logisticians and the class average score was eighty five percent. While this is promising they have a long way to go to have professional pharmacies, enough medical machinery and supplies to properly support their forces. Maj.Gen. Eftali stated the Afghan army is lacking this capability but they want it so badly that they “are like a thirsty person that is always thinking about the water.” 

As I watched each graduate come up and receive their diploma they each individually turned around, held up their diploma for all to see and yelled out “I serve my country Afghanistan!”  These logisticians will be sent to the various regions of Afghanistan and establish systems to ensure each region is properly supported. 

As I witnessed these young men stating their allegiance to their country I realized that they really do want to change the future of this country. While this event today was small in the grand scheme of things it was yet another step in moving this country forward.

What I thought was going to just be another graduation ceremony made me realize our forces are making an impact by building enduring institutions for Afghanistan. I also witnessed how grateful the Afghans are by their comments to the coalition forces in the room. Maj. Gen. Eftali thanked us all and said, “this capability is like a gift from God … We pray for you and your families and appreciate the sacrifices you and your country have made to be here.”

Afghanistan has a tough road ahead and no one in the world knows how it will turn out but with dedication like I witnessed today I believe the Afghan people are looking to the future and want to give their all to live in a peaceful and stable society.

 Col. Gregory Breazile is the director of communication, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. Breazile is a combat veteran with 26 years of Marine Corps service. He is from Stillwater.