Today is a historical day in Kandahar, Afghanistan:
Canadians at KAF prepare to turn over Role 3 Hospital to U.S. doctors
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The big red letters on the large white sign at Kandahar Airfield's Canadian-run Role 3 Multinational Hospital say it best: "The Best Care Anywhere." [my emphasis of course!]
As of Thursday, it will require a footnote - "Under New Management."
After three busy, challenging years under the guidance of Canadian doctors and soldiers, the Role 3 - the health-care hub of the major military headquarters in southern Afghanistan - is being turned over to the Americans, whose numbers at KAF are growing by the day.
Canada originally agreed to take responsibility for the facility for one year, but that agreement stretched into two years, and then three. Now, with massive U.S. reinforcements on hand, the time is right to hand over control of the facility.
There will likely be a tear or two to the eyes of the Canadian personnel who cared for the ramshackle facility for so long - particularly Col. Danielle Savard, the career soldier and trained pharmacist who has served as the hospital's director.
"I am proud," said Savard, the first and only woman to run the facility. "It was our time to shine, and we've been shining all the way, and all that because of the incredible team that we had in place."
The official handover ceremony takes place Oct. 15, after which most of the current Canadian staff will be heading back to Canada following their six-month tour.
The effort in recent months to train U.S. personnel has been something of a challenge thanks to the fact that the incoming contingent includes American navy personnel, Savard added.
"We need to train them on the way we are working here," she chuckled. "It's different from a ship."
Because personnel are constantly being rotated through Afghanistan, the operation has refined the way it passes training and information to incoming personnel - something the medical community could learn from, Savard added.
"This is something that the army is good at, and we need to do better in the medical world in the lessons learned and passing information from one roto to the other."
Canada will still play a major part in providing health care at the Role 3, in much the way other countries have under the command of Savard and her predecessors over the past three years. But there is a sadness knowing that as of Thursday, things will be changing.
"It will be sad ... It's like the medical history book. I guess we just wrote another chapter and soon it will be the last page of it," she acknowledged quietly.(here)
Over the last three years, I have been priviledged - initially through my connection with Soldiers' Angels - to send a couple of care packages directly to the Canadian medics working there. My initial contact with them came via an American captain, who said that she had got into a 'discussion' with a Canadian colleague. This Canadian colleague had seen all the support from SA going to the American troops, and couldn't believe that the Canadians could also get that kind of support through SA. That email was passed on to me (at the time I was one of the few Canadian-based members of SA. Times have changed.)
Because of the nature of their work, communication was sporadic, but one of my most favourite requests from them a couple of Christmases ago went something like this:
Is there any way we can find a few Christmas decorations to brighten up the area for the wounded?The challenge was on! I spoke to a friend who works at a drug store here in Bratville (himself a veteran), and his boss told him "take whatever you need from the store." The end result was TEN boxes of donated decorations shipped free (thanks, Canada Post.) I swear there was everything from a tree, to decorations, and enough lights to light all of Kandahar that Christmas. The employees also took up a donation drive (which their boss also matched dollar for dollar) and a couple of boxes overflowing with goodies for the Canadian medical personnel was added to the shipment.
The most recent Canadian medic I exchanged emails with, out of Role 3, is home now - in Bratville, no less - and I am expecting to be passed on to the next contact in Kandahar.
The fact is, that even as you read polls saying home based support for our Canadians is low; even as the msm rarely has stories of the great things that our Canadians are doing over there; and yes, even as late night American tv hosts poke fun at our Canadians, every single one of them IS a hero, and every single one of them IS supported by Canadians at home. I know this.
As Col. Savard is quoted in the above article:
"I am proud," ... "It was our time to shine, and we've been shining all the way, and all that because of the incredible team that we had in place."
The Canadian troops ARE an incredible team of dedicated men and women, and I defy anyone to say differently. I know they will continue to shine.
As this specific hand-over takes place, I am so proud of you all. This Canadian thanks you.