By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tami Hillis
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 14, 2008 - Residents of Juhaysh in Iraq's Wasit province received medical assistance from Iraqi and coalition forces during a cooperative medical engagement July 9. Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 32nd Brigade, 8th Iraqi Army Division, secured the area along with U.S. soldiers in Company D, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, attached to 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and used a school as a makeshift clinic to offer care to local Iraqis.
Village residents poured in from the streets, forming a line outside the school.
"I think this is very good," an Iraqi medic said. "It's good to help out the people, and we have a good relationship with the coalition forces."
In preparation for the engagement, the unit came out to the Juhaysh village to see what the people have and don't have, Army Capt. John Zdeb, commander of Company D, 3-7th Infantry Regiment, said.
"We asked the sheiks to identify their needs, and medical service was one of their highest priorities," said the seven-year Army veteran, who is on his second Iraq deployment. "[A combined medical engagement] was one of the easier things to do. A lot of the bigger projects, like getting the canals working and other stuff, involve higher-level influence and a lot of money, so this was relatively low-budget, high-payoff."
Army Maj. (Dr.) Mario Caycedo, a surgeon with 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th BCT, led the team of 703rd BSB medics and a 3-32nd Brigade medic in examining, diagnosing, treating and advising the patients.
"The main purpose of the CME is to come out here and interact and provide them with medical care," said Army Spc. Johnelle Opel, a medic from 703rd BSB.
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.
Once vital signs were taken, patients were escorted to a private room, where their ailments were treated.
Medical personnel saw about 280 patients, ranging from infants to elderly, with various ailments. Medical issues ranged from common joint and back pain to infections and gastrointestinal disorders.
"Most of the ailments were from the water. ... We will look at coming back here to help them out with education; do a [mission] to show them how to properly purify the water, things like that," Army Capt. K.C. Woody, commander of Company C, 703rd BSB, said.
Most of the medications distributed were over-the-counter medicines, such as pain medication, multivitamins, antibiotics and topical medicines for rashes. "We bought all the medications from the market in Iskandariyah, so it's all stuff bought off the Iraqi economy, stuff that they can get, so it's a step in the right direction," Woody said.
Each patient received an evaluation, treatment, medicine if needed, and humanitarian assistance such as water, food and personal hygiene items.
"In this area specifically, there is a lack of essential services," Zdeb said. "There are no smaller medical clinics in any of these outlining communities, and it's hard for a lot of these people to actually get to the bigger cities to get to a hospital to receive medical treatment."
In addition to the Iraqi soldiers pulling security duty, the Iraqi brigade's leadership also was present.
"It shows the local populace that their military and police leadership care about them," Woody said. "[Having the Iraqi military present] is a step in the right direction. Obviously, we're not going to be here forever, but they will. So it's important for them to see how we do things, and they can take away some of the things they learn from us, plus the things that they do well."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Tami Hillis serves in the 3rd Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)