American Forces Press Service
March 26, 2009 - Iraq soldiers of the 11th Iraqi Army Division and members of the 11th U.S. Military Transition Team delivered much-needed medical supplies to the residents of northeastern Baghdad's al-Shaab community March 19. This joint humanitarian-aid mission was the first glimpse of government assistance for some residents of this poverty-stricken neighborhood in the Adhamiyah district. "I think the [11th Iraqi Army Division] saw the great need for some intervention here," Army Maj. Samuel Rodriquez of the 11th MiTT said. "We are just here to support them in their mission. It should be them who are praised for seeing this great need and coming out here and providing assistance to these Iraqi people who need it most.
"It's a rough neighborhood, which is why this mission is so important," he continued. "If you are going to change people's minds and get them to see the good in the Iraq army, the national police, you have to engage the people in this area. Give them confidence in the [Iraqi security forces] and coalition forces; show that we do have an interest in their situation as well as quality of life."
U.S. medical soldiers, alongside their Iraqi counterparts, set up an impromptu aid station inside the New Iraq School to conduct examinations and prescribe antibiotics for a wide range of medical ailments.
Government volunteers and Iraqi soldiers oversaw the distribution of care. Toothbrushes, aspirin, sunscreen, eye drops, and many other everyday items were handed out, along with bags of nonperishable food items.
"With the children we see a lot of infections, ear infections, and sinus problems. With the elderly we see a lot of severe diabetics, high blood pressure, things that we are not equipped to treat in this capacity, disease that requires long-term prescription care," said Army Staff Sgt. Travis Jones, the medical noncommissioned officer in charge for the 42nd Brigade MiTT.
Iraq army officials, who handpicked the site, predicted 200 to 250 people would turn out to receive help. However, once on site, it was apparent that the demand would quickly consume the supply.
"There is never enough. We could take all the supplies we possess out there with us and we would never be able to make a dent," Army Sgt. 1st Class David Markus, senior medical advisor for the 11th IA MiTT, said. "To me though, even the smallest things that we do are good; it feels good just to be out there doing what you can."
Broad spectrum antibiotics, such as Amoxicillin and Penicillin, are in abundance. However, there is no capability for long-term, specialized care, so the focus for these missions is on short-term illnesses, such as viruses.
Even with a low level of supplies and an abundant outcry of need, the Iraqi soldiers and their U.S. MiTT counterparts said they accomplished their mission and gained the trust and appreciation of an important region in the fight against sectarian violence throughout Baghdad, Markus noted.
"We want to come out here and have a positive effect; to let the people see that the government and military of Iraq cares for its people," an Iraqi official at the site said.
"They all seem very appreciative of our efforts; you can see it by the way they react to you," Rodriguez said. "It gives you that 'warm and fuzzy' inside when you realize you have made a positive impact on these people's lives."
(From a Multinational Division Baghdad news release.)