War on Terrorism

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

U.S. Medics Train Iraqi Counterparts

By Army Capt. Steve Johnson
Special to American Forces Press Service

Oct. 28, 2009 - U.S. Army medics here are taking a major step forward in normalizing the training of medical personnel at the 7th Iraqi Army Division's Camp Mejid clinic by matching the training curriculum to the clinic's real-time needs. "I looked through the clinic's records and noticed 90 percent of their patients were diagnosed with influenza," said Army Staff Sgt. Tiari Ventura, noncommissioned officer in charge of a medical training team, of the 82nd Airborne Division's 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade.

Previous medical training teams focused almost exclusively on trauma injuries such as those from improvised explosive devices, said Army 1st Lt. Jessica Larson, officer in charge of the medical training team. Although trauma is important for Iraqi medics to understand, 98 percent of health care demand at the Iraqi clinic will be for common conditions such as colds and minor injuries, Larson added.

Al Asad is located in Iraq's Anbar province, once a hotbed for the Sunni insurgency and the site of some of the most intense fighting following the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Since the drop in violence resulting from local tribes switching their allegiance from al-Qaida to cooperate with U.S. forces, the need to treat trauma injuries at local clinics has diminished.

"We're devoting more time to give [7th Army Division medics] the skill sets they'll need once we leave Iraq," said Army Lt. Col. Andrew Danwin, 307th Brigade Support Battalion commander.

Army Pfc. Mohammad Shaker, a training team member fluent in Arabic, recently taught a class to Iraqi medical personnel on diabetes.

"The Iraqis were very interested and asked lots of questions," he said. "Some had family members affected by diabetes."

On one occasion, Larson used an Iraqi soldier with a foot injury who visited the clinic for a follow-up to make a teaching point. The soldier's toe had been infected for more than three weeks because Iraqi medics had prescribed the wrong treatment. Larson explained how to properly treat infections with antibiotics.

"[Iraqi medics] have a stocked pharmacy, but don't understand how to best use their medicine," Larson said. Ventura noted the training is changing that situation.

"After our first few classes," she said, "the Iraqis grabbed medicine from their pharmacy to ask us what it was used to treat."

(Army Capt. Steve Johnson serves in the Multinational Force West public affairs office.)

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