Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 7, 2008 - The Jan. 3 opening of a medical clinic in Maderiyah, Iraq, brought health care access to a community that had not seen a doctor since Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003. For months, Maderiyah was an insurgent stronghold that left local people with little hope and much fear, one resident said. The work of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers and concerned local citizens has led to a safer community with much less extremist influence, he said.
"This is great. I can't explain what this means to me. I'm so happy," said Saadin San Ali, a member of the Maderiyah concerned citizens group. "We are all proud to have this clinic and we are proud to be from this community."
Until the clinic opened, no medical treatment facility was easily accessible to Maderiyah residents. The civil affairs team for 3rd Infantry Division's 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, planned and worked for months to open the clinic. Army Capt. Kenneth Guglielmina, the civil affairs team leader, said residents' spirits have risen with the improvements.
"The people get a positive outlook when they see change," Guglielmina said.
The clinic will be open twice a week. The primary caregiver will be a certified medical assistant who lives in Thuar, outside Maderiyah. The caregiver also will be on call for emergencies.
Army Maj. David Underwood, commander of 3rd Infantry Division's Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said the residents' ability to begin a concerned citizens program, work with U.S. soldiers and set aside secular differences to work with the Iraqi army, has helped to rebuild the infrastructure in Maderiyah. Other improvements include the completion of a newly-paved main road that at one time was littered with improvised explosive devices. A well also was dug to supply fresh water to the clinic.
"Clean drinking water is in the top three things Iraqis want and need, and it fosters good public health," said Capt. Trista Mustaine, 2nd BCT's embedded provincial reconstruction team public health officer. "We said the clinic has to have water, but the whole village needs water, so we decided to build a big well."
Mustaine said the successful building of the Maderiyah clinic, including using local contractors and digging a working well, will be the model for other Iraqi communities in need of health care.
The Maderiyah residents hope the clinic grows to include more staff and longer hours. Meanwhile, they are happy to have hope for the future. "Today was the first time I've smiled in five years," said Sheikh Aamash Kadhuma, a local citizens group commander in the Al Rasheed region.
(Army Sgt. Jason Stadel serves with the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)