04 November 2009

Canadians transfer command of Kandahar's 'Role 3' hospital to U.S.

Col. Danielle Savard, left, departing commanding officer at the Role 3 hospital, poses for photos with her replacement, U.S. Navy Capt. Darin Via at a change of command ceremony at RC South headquarters at Kandahar Airfield, Afgahanistan, Oct. 15, 2009. Photograph by: Bruce Ward, Canwest News Service.

Thank you and well done, Canada!

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The multinational hospital here has "a hard-earned reputation" among coalition soldiers, Col. Danielle Savard, the hospital's departing commanding officer, said Thursday at a change-of-command ceremony.

"They rightfully believe if they arrive with a heartbeat, they will probably survive," said Savard, who handed over command of the Role 3 hospital to U.S. Navy Capt. Darin Via.

The U.S. also takes on lead-nation status from the Canadian Forces.

Canada has been running Role 3 for the past three years.

"We have saved more lives than we possibly thought we would do," said Savard, who took command of the multinational medical unit in the spring of 2009. "We are a multinational unit when you look at the uniforms. However, we are working as one team, with one vision and one goal: saving lives and taking care of each other."

Maj. Gen. Mart de Kruif, the International Security Assistance Force's RC South commander, noted in a speech that since he took command last November, coalition forces have lost "253 colleagues and saw more than 600 soldiers evacuated back to their country with life-changing wounds."

Although these figures "sometimes take your breath away, it could have been much, much worse," he said.

In 2009, more than 4,000 patients were taken from the battlefield by medevac helicopter, most of them coalition soldiers, he said.

"All of them needed urgent medical attention. Only a few of them did not survive. These figures show that we have a robust and courageous medical system in place. It also tells you something about our Role 3."

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Savard spoke with pride of the tremendous amount of hard work carried out by medical staff.

"Sometimes we worked 18 hours without a break, just to be sure that the patient comes first. We have saved so many lives, it's hard for us if somebody dies."

Savard said it was an emotional day for her: "It's my big family I'm leaving behind."

Via, who has Role 3 experience in Iraq, said he was "honoured and humbled by taking over from Col. Savard and the Canadians.

"They've done a phenomenal job and it's going to be big shoes to fill but I think we have the right people to make it a successful mission."

Excellent video story from Global News that might take a while to load but is worth the wait. At the end, Maj. Brent Crawford of 1 Field Ambulance - who'd been up all night the night before delegating medical staff and the use of equipment to save the life of a severely wounded American soldier - movingly talks about the reason he's there:

"The thing I miss most about being here in Afghanistan is being with my son. And, ironically, that's the reason why I'm here today. I want to be able to say to myself that I made a very small but personal contribution to making the world a more stable and secure place for him to grow up."

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