184th Medical Group builds bonds in Armenia

Staff Sgt. Ryan Ghaffari, flight operational medical technician, 184th Medical Group, checks a patient’s eyes in Gavar, Armenia, Aug. 9. Ghaffari was one of 35 members from the 184th Intelligence Wing who supported the humanitarian civic outreach mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Maria Ruiz)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Ghaffari, flight operational medical technician, 184th Medical Group, checks a patient’s eyes in Gavar, Armenia, Aug. 9. Ghaffari was one of 35 members from the 184th Intelligence Wing who supported the humanitarian civic outreach mission. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Maria Ruiz)

By Tech. Sgt. Maria Ruiz, 184th Intelligence Wing Public Affairs

Thirty-five members of the 184th Intelligence Wing, primarily from the 184th Medical Group, supported a humanitarian civic outreach mission in Armenia in August. The purpose of the two-week mission was to train U.S. and British forces in their medical specialty fields.

Airmen were divided between two government hospitals, Hrazdan Medical Center, Hrazdan, and Gavar Medical Center, Gavar. Three soldiers from the 6th Battalion, British Regular Army were embedded into the 184th MDG component in Gavar. The Airmen and Soldiers worked in many sections of the hospital.

Cpl. Andrew Fuller, combat medical technician class 1, 6th Battalion, British Regular Army, said, “This is the first time partnering with the Kansas Air National Guard and it’s been an absolute pleasure. We are happy to be here and be part of this experience. ”

The mission was the first time in the past 10 years that a medical unit has visited Armenia. The project was accomplished in part by the National Guard State Partnership Program.
The SPP has been building relationships between U.S. military members and 76 developing countries for more than 20 years. The program matches National Guard with armed forces or equivalent organizations of a partner country in a mutually beneficial relationship. Kansas has been partnered with Armenia since 2002.

Dr. Nune Grigoryan, optometrist and chief doctor, Hrazdan Medical Center, worked alongside Lt. Col. Darin Nitschke, optometrist, 184th MDG.

“The first thing that I learned from Dr. Nitschke was to smile. It was just not a job, it was a pleasure to work with him,” said Grigoryan. “Though [the Armenian hospital staff] works with different instruments than in America, I learned a lot from him and I hope that we continue to share our experiences.”

Classes taught by the 184th MDG for the Armenian medical staff members included cardiopulmonary resuscitation, advanced cardiac life support, basic life support, infection control procedures, and stroke therapy and assessment.

“I taught a National Institutes of Health scale that determines what body part and how severe a stroke has affected a patient,” said Airman 1st Class Cora Bloom, aerospace medical technician, 184th MDG. “Using this scale will give the emergency room nurses a quantitative value to their stroke assessment. They can do all of it in an organized manner and the same way for every patient.”

Bloom was the stroke assessment class instructor and gave the class to Hrazdan emergency room nurses and staff members at the Hrazdan Day Care Center for Children with Disabilities.

The American and British personnel also reached out to the Gavar Orphanage, which housed approximately 63 children. The children were given toothpaste, toothbrushes, instructions on body hygiene and toys. The Airmen and British personnel visited the orphanage when off-duty to play games and interact with the children.

“Smiles can reach a million people,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Ghaffari, flight operational medical technician, 184th MDG. “It was a great time interacting with the children and teaching body hygiene.”

Additional donations to the community included clothes from the 184th MDG members, 1,000 toothbrushes from King’s Storehouse Food Bank, Texas, and 300 prescription eyeglasses from the Lion’s Club International, Texas.

The generous hospitality of the Armenians was expressed in a variety of ways, such as inviting the U.S. and British personnel to join in their coffee breaks.

The Total Force components at the Gavar hospital received a visit from Richard Mills, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, and Judith Farnworth, British Ambassador.

“This program not only gives the hospitals the help of some talented medical experts to provide continued quality care, it also serves as a valuable training and experience for our U.S. and U.K. medical staff,” said Mills. “The U.S. volunteers are gaining experience with conditions and ailments that may not be common in the U.S., and working with Armenian doctors and nurses, they gain a better understanding of working across cultures, a valuable skill for a unit that is ready to deploy worldwide on short notice.”