By: Cpl. Colby W. Brown, Regimental Combat Team-5, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Sgt. LaJuanna Baker and Cpl. Andrea Moreira-Rios were in the right place at the right time on July 30.
They had set off from Combat Outpost Rankel to a local health clinic with the original mission of handing out hygiene packets as part of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment’s health initiative. While teaching a group of local women how to use each item, a midwife from Safar Bazaar sought out Baker and Rios to help deliver a baby.
“We were more excited than some of the people who were there,” said Baker, a female engagement team leader and native of Pensacola, Fla. “It was her first born, her first child, and we were just happy to help her out.”
During the delivery they held the mother’s legs and provided encouragement despite the language barrier. Baker and Rios checked the baby after it was born to make sure it was breathing and gave water to the mother. Both the mother and child were found to be medically sound.
“It changed my perspective of the local women,” said Baker. “This woman didn’t receive any pain medication before or during childbirth.”
When Staff Sgt. Kimberly Nalepka, the FET squad leader in Garmsir, first heard about the delivery, she said the event exemplifies the unique role that FET plays here.
“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,” Nalepka added. “As female Marines we help strengthen relationships in the local communities because we can interact with the women where male Marines can’t. Especially in a case like this where we helped in the birth of a child.”
“I think it was incredible,” said Nalepka, a native of Coral Springs, Fla. “The timing was perfect. Baker and Rios are originally from [a base north of Combat Outpost Rankel]. It was just meant to be to have a team down there.”
The visit to the Safar Bazaar was part of FET’s recent focus of reaching out to areas in the district that do not currently have organic female engagement teams at company positions.
“It helped spread the word to the local women that females from other countries are here and want to help them,” Baker said. “When we go see the women they are excited because most of them have never seen American women before.”
Editors Note: Cpl. Andrea Moreira-Rios is the assistant team leader for Baker and is a native of Passaic N.J.
First Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 1, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghanistan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.