Leadership and the mentor

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Dewane Brown Jr.
  • 28th Medical
As the dust settled on my third full night in Afghanistan, I wrote my thoughts in a journal I carry with me whenever I'm on a deployment. 

I wrote, "I could not imagine how Afghanistan would be or even dream of what my eyes would see. A war-torn country under Taliban rule, as seen on the faces of the Afghan people as we entered Kabul". 

Essentially, Afghanistan is a country in need of a foundation built on good leadership.
My mother always told me, a good leader leads by example and a good example is just as good as the words you speak. It is a means to achieve two ends: operating and improving. In Afghanistan, I remember thinking 'operating' meant working to achieve a reasonable Afghan solution executed by Afghan National Army. 

'Improving' was part of my job during this deployment because my task was to improve how the Afghani medical system operated and also worked to improve their mindset in terms of all-encompassing medical care. These two principles encompass what it meant for me to be a part of a medical embedded training team assigned to mentor the Afghan National Army, striving to put an Afghan face on a coalition led effort. 

It was a challenge and a great exercise to use what I've learned in the art of leadership. Through my words and examples as a leader, I had to communicate (often through a language barrier) what I believe are the foundations of leadership. These foundations are purpose, direction and motivation. 


This gave the Afghan people a reason to do things. The purpose was for us to strengthen the Afghan National Army Healthcare Systems ability to improve healthcare with rapid response by trained and experienced medical personnel. As a leader it seemed easy to define purpose as we were able to gain their trust by giving them reasons and ways to improve patient care. However, maintaining these standards was more challenging for the Afghan people than I imagined. 

Before our arrival, our counterparts had left amputees alone at night to fend for themselves, as well as having patients administer their own medication. The standard of care has improved tremendously. 


When giving direction, communication is the way to get the mission accomplished. As we led Afghan leaders we were able to provide direction for their people to get the mission accomplished. For example, a medical supply system that had no tracking capabilities needed what was in stock at the regional warehouse. We were able to help them through leadership, establish a system that would enable each supply custodian to track their own supplies and provide a computer system that would show them what is on-hand at the regional warehouse. We also oversaw improvements in the area of wound care management and training.


The last part of the leadership equation during this deployment was giving the Afghan National Army a sense of direction through motivation. My goal was to lead my host nation counterparts in a direction that eventually motivated them to say, "We can do it."
This motivation enabled them to do certain tasks on their own after seeing the results of their initiatives. Tasks such as putting the patients at ease, changing bandages or administering medication to patients in extreme pain were motivations. The positive responses received were overwhelming as our mentoring finally seemed to be getting through to some of the Afghan doctors and nurses. We knew that in order to continue to motivate the Afghan people, we had to challenge them as leaders by giving them as much responsibility as they could handle. Good leadership keeps the people motivated and strives to make them want to do more. 

As we continue to mentor good leadership in the Afghan region, we must continue to ensure local forces are operating and improving on skills learned and consistently looking for ways to improve processes. The Afghan people as a whole are in need of purpose, direction and motivation in order to found good leadership. These efforts, tempered by leadership every person in our Air Force is taught as they come through the ranks, will only ensure success between Afghan and coalition forces which is essential to winning today's fight. 

We should take advantage of all of the leadership opportunities that we are a afforded in this country. You never know when they will be battle- tested.
I must say we are truly blessed.