War on Terrorism

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Task Force's Final Visit Shows Better Health Care in Iraqi Province

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 1, 2009 - Soldiers serving with a medical task force here completed nearly a year's worth of missions last week satisfied that they've helped to improve health care in Iraq's Wasit province. Soldiers from Task Force Gunner Med wrapped up Operation "Bring on the Docs" with a visit to the Jassan Health Clinic for a cooperative medical engagement June 23.

"It was great. The security was amazing," said Army Capt. Jason Smith, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 41st Fires Brigade. "We had a great time working with the Iraqi physicians, meeting the pharmacists, talking to all the civilians and giving them good care."

Bring on the Docs started in August, and was a joint medical civil-military operation between the Wasit director of general of health and the 41st Fires Brigade. It was designed to restore the medical capacity in Wasit and bring clinics up to regional standards.

Initially headed by Col. Italo Bastianelli, 41st Fires Brigade surgeon, and carried on by Maj. N.I. Okpokwasili when Bastianelli redeployed, Task Force Gunner Med's approach to improving the health care in Wasit was multifaceted.

The medical visits help to identify each clinic's problems so the Iraqi health care system can fix those problems and bring health care standards up to the same level as other Gulf region countries.

Task Force Gunner Med identified ways coalition forces could help with facility improvements at clinics and hospitals. Medical training also was conducted here for physicians and Iraqi security forces medics to attend.

The last Bring on the Docs mission was a little less hectic than the previous medical engagement, as the doctors saw about 100 patients instead of the normal 250 to 300, Smith said.

The last mission was one of the first medical engagements for one medic, who said it was a good experience for him and that he'll continue these types of missions, if possible.

"I would like to continue it. It depends on what kind of support we get," said Army Sgt. Hiran Patel, a 1st Battalion, 150th Assault Helicopter Battalion medic. "If we have the proper support for it, I'll keep on doing it."

Both Patel and Smith said they were impressed with the operations at the Jassan Health Clinic.

"I think this clinic is in great shape. I got to look through their pharmacy, and they have a bunch of good medications," Smith said. "I got to work hand-in-hand with an Iraqi physician and she did an outstanding job seeing and treating people."

"I just have a different comparison just coming over here," Patel said. "The biggest, toughest thing is the language barrier, but they seem to be doing pretty well for themselves."

Operation Bring on the Docs came to a close after 11 months of missions as the 41st Fires Brigade prepares to redeploy to Fort Hood, Texas.

(Army Sgt. 1st Class Joe Thompson serves in the 41st Fires Brigade public affairs office.)

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