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Afghan policeman helped by SFAT, FST

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Two months ago, Pvt. Mohammed Qasim, an Afghan uniformed policeman with the 4th Company Reserve Kandak, was injured when his patrol was struck by an improvised explosive device. He was lucky. Shrapnel from the explosion pierced his arms, neck, side and hand, but the wounds were relatively minor.

Two months later, Qasim had recovered from most of the wounds, but not all of them. The ring and pinky fingers on his left hand were still badly swollen, unusable and painful.

Qasim's hand was still injured when he met the new Security Forces Advisory Team 21 from Hawaii National Guard.

The new SFAT team, part of the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, had arrived at the headquarters of the AUP 4th Company stationed right outside Forward Operating Base Lagman, to hold a key leader meeting and to build rapport with the Afghan unit. While the leaders were inside meeting, Qasim and other ANA soldiers got to know some of the SFAT Soldiers outside. Qasim showed them his hand.

"You could tell it was infected and you could see the scars where fragments of metal had gone through multiple fingers," Capt. Trevor Mastromarino, of SFAT 21 said.

The SFAT team made no promises, but returned to base and spoke with Navy Capt. Stephen Dirusso, commander of the Lagman Forward Surgical Team.

Normally, the FST treats trauma patients that arrive by medevac. Treating an old wound was something new, but not outside the scope of their ability. Dirusso agreed to see Qasim to determine if there was anything they could do to help.

The next day, members of the SFAT team escorted Qasim onto the base and into the FST for treatment.

After a series of X-rays and evaluations, Navy Cmdr. Daniel Sellman, a surgeon with the FST, determined that a piece of shrapnel had passed through the middle joint of Qasim's ring finger and destroyed the joint. An infection had possibly developed in the bone itself and Qasim needed surgery.

Sellman explained that Qasim would never again bend his finger due to the damage from the explosion, but Qasim did not need to be in continuous pain. Surgery would fix that.

By late afternoon, Qasim's surgery was finished. The FST had done its job and the new SFAT team was escorting Qasim back to his unit.

SFAT 21 is trying to build rapport with the ANA units they are set to work with throughout the deployment, but helping Qasim was more than just an opportunity to build rapport.

"He was hurt serving in the line of duty. He deserved care, and we really wanted to help him," Mastromarino said.

As for Qasim, he was very happy to receive treatment at the FST and pleased to be working with the new SFAT team.

"I am very happy with American soldiers," Qasim said. "I am happy to know them. They are good."

Article by Sgt. Lori Bilyou, Army.mil