There’s a little Afghan baby in Garmser District in southern Afghanistan whose first few minutes of life began in the hands of a couple of Marines.
Sgt. LaJuanna Baker and Cpl. Andrea Moreira-Rios, members of a Female Engagement Team assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, set out from Combat Outpost Rankel south of Garmser District Center, on a mission to a health clinic to talk with Afghan women and give them a supply of personal hygiene items.
When they got there, they were approached by a desperate midwife who asked if they would help deliver a baby for a woman who was going to give birth for the first time.
As Cpl. Colby W. Brown of 1st Marine Division Public Affairs tells it in an article, the women Marines didn’t hesitate and Baker said she and Moreira-Rios were “more excited than some of the people who were there.”
As the Afghan woman huffed and pushed, the Marines encouraged her, and after the baby was born they performed a check for proper breathing and other basic functions. To the mother, who hadn’t taken any pain medications — and didn’t take any for the birth — they offered water.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Nalepka, the FET’s squad leader — whom I had the pleasure of meeting when I was at Forward Operating Base Delhi in July — said something in the article that I can say from my own observation is utterly true:
“If the FET wasn’t here, then we wouldn’t have been able to engage with the midwife to begin with, let alone help with the birth.”
“As female Marines, we help strengthen relationships in the local communities because we can interact with the women where male Marines can’t,” she said.
When the male infantrymen of 1/3 are out on patrol, they are only able to catch glimpses of the women in the farmlands and villages, who scurry inside their walled compounds and attempt to shoo their children in with them.
When the FET is there, they are transfixed… and then they smile timidly… and then the communication begins.
I can’t say for sure, but I’m willing to bet that word of the the help given by Baker and Rios-Moreira, the Marines with the neat buns and girl voices, will follow that little baby for the rest of its life.
As Baker said, the Afghan women are “excited because most of them have never seen American women before.”