Local soldier helps deliver baby

An Army medic from Mukilteo helped deliver a baby girl in what may be the first birth aboard an Army helicopter in a war zone.

The special delivery happened Saturday, between two remote Army posts in Afghanistan.

Photo courtesy Storbakken family

Army Spc. Kyle Storbakken of Mukilteo (center) helps an Afghan woman give birth during a helicopter ride to a military base on Saturday. The baby’s father is at back.

Army Spc. Kyle Storbakken, a 1998 graduate of Kamiak High School, and Lt. Col. David Barber were helping transport the pregnant wife of a village elder near Shkin to an Army hospital.

A midwife from the village came looking for the Army’s help after the woman had been in labor for 18 hours.

Storbakken is a medic with the Army’s 159th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) out of Wiesbaden, Germany, and Barber is a doctor and the commander of the 249th General Hospital’s medical detachment at the Salerno base near Khowst.

The pair were taking the Afghan woman from Shkin to Khowst in an Army Black Hawk helicopter when the baby joined the helicopter’s passenger list.

Storbakken cut the baby’s umbilical cord. Both the mother and daughter were taken to Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul, and are doing well.

The birth may be the first ever on a helicopter in a combat zone, according to Combined Forces Command in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Many of those involved with the flight praised Storbakken, 25, for his help during the baby’s birth.

The 61/2-pound baby and her father, Peer Mullah Khan, and mother, Melawa, were expected to return to Salerno early this week, according to Stars and Stripes newspaper.

Storbakken’s family heard about his help with the birth over the weekend, when he sent an e-mail home.

“I was surprised. Kind of like, was the baby OK?” said Kelly Reinertsen, the soldier’s oldest sister.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “He’s a great uncle. He just loves kids and is so sensitive to their needs; it’s fitting for him to do this.”

Storbakken is an outgoing guy and the family’s jokester, his family said. He was a big kid with a big laugh growing up, and he was athletic, too, playing center on the Kamiak football team in high school.

He went to Washington State University for a few years after college, but started looking for a change in his life after a close friend at college died in a car accident, said his father, Tom Storbakken of Mukilteo.

Storbakken decided to enlist in the Army as a medical technician in 2002. His grandmother, Agnes McVay, had been a nurse for 44 years at Providence Hospital in Seattle.

Spc. Storbakken has served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He was with an artillery unit assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division during the battle for Baghdad almost two years ago. He deployed to Afghanistan in June.

His mother, Kathy Storbakken, said the family has had many sleepless nights.

“We do a lot of praying,” said Tom Storbakken, Kyle Storbakken’s father.

“We also know he’s also doing a lot of good over there, and that’s what gets us through,” he added.

Tom Storbakken recalled an e-mail from his son after he returned to Afghanistan after a two-week visit home in October.

Mentioning one of his first medic calls when he got back to Afghanistan – treating a boy injured by a land mine – the soldier said he had to be there because he was needed there.

Since the baby’s birth on Saturday, Spc. Storbakken has gotten a bit of ribbing from his fellow soldiers.

Tom Storbakken said they’ve since tapped a “baby on board” sign onto one of the windows of his Black Hawk helicopter.

While Spc. Storbakken has talked in the past about having a family someday, his mother said he’s already joking that this weekend’s experience has changed his thinking a bit.

“He sent us an e-mail and said, ‘I’d have to wait another 10 years,’” Kathy Storbakken said.

Reporter Brian Kelly: 425-339-3422 or kelly@heraldnet.com.

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