By Army Spc. Maurice A. Galloway
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 21, 2009 - Soldiers of the U.S. Army's 17th Fires Brigade and the 14th Iraqi Army Division conducted their first joint medical military-civic operations clinic at Basra Operations Center Oct. 8, drawing about 150 people. "The purpose of an event such as this is to provide treatment for minor illnesses and teach these people how to better care for themselves," said Army 1st Lt. Jennifer L. Leathers, operations manager for the U.S. brigade's 1314th Civil Affairs Company and a native of Omaha, Neb. "With the right teaching and instruction, a lot of the illnesses and injuries that we saw here could have been treated at home or prevented."
The patients were comfortably seated on couches as they awaited their turn to be seen at one of the nine stations set up to treat and assess their needs. Iraqi medical personnel and U.S. soldiers evaluated the patients and offered analysis and guidance on treatment and preventive care. In addition to providing medical attention, the soldiers dispensed food, medicine and personal hygiene items. Iraqi soldiers provided security as the mission allowed the Iraqi army to showcase its civil-military role in helping the country's people.
The Iraqi and U.S. medics were fully prepared for the event and had plenty of supplies on hand to treat each patient ensuring that each person who came was seen and evaluated. The Iraqi army took the lead in security medical treatment, allowing U.S. soldiers the chance to evaluate and train their Iraqi counterparts.
"The Iraqi army met their goal, which was to provide the barest of necessary equipment needed to treat and teach the local populace how to better care for minor injuries and illnesses that could progress if not assessed early on," Leathers said. "Our role was to evaluate the Iraqi army's procedures during the event and make on-the-spot corrections as needed. This is so they could learn while doing, making them much more efficient and effective when they conduct other events like this in the very near future."
The soldiers at the clinic recognized the event's value toward providing care for the city's residents. Iraqi Col. Abbas Abdul Ghafar Altmymy, a 14th Iraqi Army Division public information officer, said the event's large turnout indicated the people's desire for coordinated health care in Iraq's Basra province and the need to implement and sustain such operations.
"Today we did something that was extremely positive and progressive for the people of Basra," he said. "We were able to take care of the needs of 150 patients, which is no small task. With the help of our partners from the 17th Fires Brigade, we'll conduct an evaluation to see how we can improve to make our next community outreach project an even bigger success."
The 17th Fires Brigade soldiers were proud to be part of the event, not only for the opportunity it provided to help the citizens of Basra, but also to see first-hand the united Iraqi and U.S. efforts in working toward a worthwhile cause.
"Having done similar events before, by working side by side with them, we've given them a template ... to measure their progress by," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Maryfaith B. Payne, brigade medical operations noncommissioned officer for the brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, a Honolulu native.
"It's really good to see the people of Basra receiving the help and assistance that they need from the Iraqi army," said Army Spc. Christina R. Kreite of the brigade's 206th Military Police Company, a native of Long Island, N.Y. "We've been training them to handle these types of situations, and there was a time when a crowd this large would have been a bit overwhelming for the Iraqi army. But this shows just how far they've come."
Army Pfc. Leah K. Brook, a medic and health care specialist with the military police company, said the event was similar to other humanitarian missions in which she's participated. The Syracuse, N.Y., native said she felt moved by the faces of the people seeking treatment and impressed by the level of care given by the Iraqi military and civil medical community. She was honored to be a part of such a fulfilling experience, she added, even if her role was limited to an advisory capacity.
"As a medic, I find humanitarian missions to be undeniably fulfilling," she said. "So to be here in an observation role, as opposed to helping the people first-hand, is a little difficult. But seeing the Iraqis helping their own people lets me know that we are really making a difference."
(Army Spc. Maurice A. Galloway serves with the 17th Fires Brigade.)