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Afghan Gives Birth Aboard Black Hawk
By Kent Harris
Stars and Stripes
Mideast Edition
March 16, 2005

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan The population of Afghanistan grew slightly Saturday, thanks in part to a pair of Black Hawk crews and a 25-year-old flight medic from Wiesbaden, Germany.

Army Spc. Kyle Storbakken helped an Afghan mother deliver a healthy 6-pound baby while aboard the Black Hawk flying to the U.S. military base Salerno.

"This was my first delivery," Storbakken said via a phone interview from Salerno, a remote base a few hours away by helicopter from Bagram.

It was the first such delivery that anyone associated with the current medical mission in country had knowledge of. Col. John Giddens, the commander of the 249th General Hospital at Bagram, said most Afghans the hospital sees are those critically injured by mines, accidents or attacks by anti-coalition forces.

"It's very nice to have a joyful emergency coming through our doors," he said.

Peer Mullah Khan, the baby's father, is a leader of the village next to the U.S. outpost at Skhin. Through a translator, he said he came to U.S. troops for help when his wife started struggling during labor.

Giving birth isn't a new experience for his wife, Melawa. The baby girl, who hasn't been named yet, is the couple's 14th child. Two have died, but the others ranging from the newest addition to a 19-year old girl make for a large family. Two sons currently serve in the Afghan army.

American officials said they agreed to take the mother and father aboard the aircraft because it appeared that the placenta was between the baby and the birth canal, potentially putting both lives at risk. Fortunately, that turned out to not be the case.

In order to save time, one helicopter was dispatched from Salerno to Skhin to pick up the mother while another left Bagram to fly to Salerno. While the first helicopter was on its way back from the village to Salerno, the mother gave birth.

Storbakken, assigned to the 159th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) at Wiesbaden, said he couldn't recall any specific emotions he had while helping deliver the baby.

"I guess you don't really think about what's going on until it's all over," he said.

Capt. Richard Mangini, the executive officer of the 68th Medical Company, of which Storbakken is a part, said in-air births are a rarity. And it was even more special because of who was delivering the baby.

"He's our youngest and probably most inexperienced medic in terms of time on the job," he said.

Storbakken said he's already received several good-natured jabs by his peers.

"Some of the guys have been calling me daddy," he said.

The real father and mother were expected to travel back to Salerno from Bagram on Monday with the newest member of their family.

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This article is provided courtesy of Stars & Stripes, which got its start as a newspaper for Union troops during the Civil War, and has been published continuously since 1942 in Europe and 1945 in the Pacific. Stripes reporters have been in the field with American soldiers, sailors and airmen in World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo, and are now on assignment in the Middle East.

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Copyright 2004 Stars and Stripes. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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