By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Two Wyoming airmen delivered a baby last week for an Afghan refugee family, the Air Force announced this week.
Senior Master Sgt. Jennifer N. Ballenger and Tech. Sgt. Shyloh A. Vallot, airmen from the 153rd Airlift Wing in Cheyenne, are working on a temporary assignment in New Jersey as a part of Operation Allies Refuge, an ongoing military operation transporting at-risk civilians, interpreters and other visa applicants out of Afghanistan.
On Sept. 10, the women were on duty at McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Air Force Base in New Jersey when they were told by one of the guests that there was a medical emergency nearby.
The guest at the facility being used to house refugees turned out to be the husband of a woman who was expecting a child. His family had left their home in Afghanistan.
While the man did not speak English, he made it clear to the airmen that his wife was pregnant and needed medical assistance.
However, there were only male doctors on staff in the area that night and Afghan custom dictates that female attendants must deliver children. Neither Ballenger nor Vallot had any advanced medical training, but they knew exactly what to do as mothers themselves.
Bringing along a 16-year-old Afghan boy to act as a translator, Ballenger and Vallot followed the man to his wife.
They found her on the third floor of a barracks wing being used to house some of the guests temporarily.
The mother’s contractions had already begun and she was close to giving birth.
Ballenger and Vallot rushed to the mother and rendered aid. Donning gloves and masks, both women tended to the mother as she struggled to deliver the child.
Holding the newborn, Ballenger ensured the baby was healthy and could breathe properly as she helped clear the baby’s airway. The baby’s cries were a relief to everyone in the room that night.
“This is probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” said Ballenger. “These people trust us; they came here for safety, for stability, and for a better life.”
The baby girl is alive, healthy and, because she was born on American soil, an American herself.
“It just makes you realize how lucky we are to have what we have,” Vallot said. “They want that so badly, they were willing to get on a flight to who knows where, and to come to an unfamiliar country, not even knowing the language, that’s how much they want this.”
“That is how much they trust us,” said Ballenger.