By Sgt. 1st Class Tami Hillis, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 4, 2008 - Residents of Abu Amer, a small village in Iraq's Wasit province, received medical assistance March 28 from coalition forces during a medical civil action program designed to provide basic primary care. Using a school as a makeshift clinic, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, attached to 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, secured the area before announcing, via loudspeaker, the opportunity for residents to receive health care and humanitarian assistance. People poured in from the streets, forming a line just outside the school.
Army Maj. (Dr.) Howard Curlin, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion surgeon; Army Capt. (Dr.) Jacob Turnquist, 4th Brigade Combat Team surgeon; and Army Maj. Marilyn Lazarz, an Army public health nurse with Company B, 415th Civil Affairs, led the team examining, diagnosing, treating and advising the patients, along with the help of nine medics.
At the initial screening station, combat medics assisted by translators interviewed each patient for medical history and previous treatments and noted their ailments. Then the medics measured each patient's vital signs — pulse, temperature and blood pressure.
The people who received care were grateful, said Lazarz, who has been a public health nurse for 18 years. "Coalition forces continue to build relationships (and) make a difference in their everyday lives," she said.
As the day continued, medical personnel saw 212 patients, ranging from infants to elderly, with various ailments. Medical issues ranged from common joint and back pain to infections and gastrointestinal disorders.
"We're only equipped with a limited supply of medications," said Turnquist, a pediatrician by trade. "We know going in there that we're potentially going to see hundreds of people."
Most of the medications handed out were over-the-counter medicines, said the Rockford, Ill., native. Cold medicines, multivitamins, antibiotics and topical medicines for rashes were distributed.
Each patient received an evaluation, treatment, medicine if needed and humanitarian assistance such as food, soccer balls, Beanie Babies or candy, all donated by soldiers in the support battalion, said Capt. Casey Woody, commander of Company C, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion.
"We went in there assessing what the people were coming in with, what complaints they had, what their age range was and what their demographics were," Turnquist said. "That information itself is helpful hopefully down the road, when we can provide that to the Ministry of Health to see if they can get more long-term medical support to that area."
Overall, Woody said, he believes the event achieved its objective.
"I'm proud of my soldiers and how they conducted themselves," said the father of two from Plymouth, Mich. "If you can help a person, it's a good feeling. I think we're doing a lot of things, and we're working in the right direction with the (embedded provincial reconstruction team) and civil affairs. ... We know we're not going to fix this problem in a year, but we want to get them on the right start."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Tami Hillis serves in the 3rd Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)