By Capt. Catherine Wilkinson
BALAD, Iraq (Army News Service, May 13, 2004) – Civil affairs and medical personnel from Logistics Support Area Anaconda provided medical assistance to more than 130 residents of a nearby village May 12.
Soldiers and airmen combined forces to provide basic medical care for Bakra Village residents during a Medical Civil Action Project mission. A wide variety of medical professionals including doctors, optometrists, dentists, physical therapists and physician’s assistants treated patients during the MEDCAP mission.
Residents began lining up for medical care as soon as the military convoy entered the village. Medics led them into a waiting area to be triaged and directed to the appropriate care provider.
The doctors provided basic medical care, evaluated individual health problems and distributed over-the-counter medicines to assist the villagers. Interpreters played a vital role during the mission, translating patient issues and the doctors’ advice into both Arabic and English.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Tech. Sgt. Paula Edwards, a medical technician with the Air Force’s Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, about the growing crowd that showed up to be seen by the doctors. “They just keep coming.”
Most of the patients Edwards assisted needed routine medical care for ailments ranging from high blood pressure to arthritis and ear infections.
“I am surprised at how welcomed we are,” said Air Force Maj. Kristina Miller, an administrator with the CASF. “The children really seem to love us and the patients are very gracious.”
Spc. Elizabeth Jarry, a dental technician from the 118th Area Support Medical Battalion, taught more than 100 people proper oral hygiene techniques. “Preventative measures are very important. It’s never too late to start,” she said. Most of the patients Jarry saw were children under 10.
“I wish I could understand them so I could speak back to them,” she added. Jarry relied on hand gestures and demonstrations to teach people how to properly floss and brush their teeth. Her station was so popular that she ran out of the toothbrushes she was handing out.
While patients were being assisted inside the building, soldiers from the 13th Corps Support Command, the 29th Signal Battalion and the 81st Brigade Combat Team provided site security outside. Young children asking them questions in broken English soon swarmed these soldiers. “What is your name” and “give me chocolate” were heard frequently as the soldiers interacted with the children outside.
“Every chance I get I try to volunteer for security. I take a different group of soldiers with me every time so we can get out and see what’s really going on around here,” said Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Bilon, a platoon sergeant with Company C, 29th Signal Battalion.
“It’s nice to get out and help the community and see that these people are friendly to us.”
“It’s interesting to interact with the people and see how attitudes change and the good that’s done,” said Col. Nicholas Zoeller, the 13th Corps Support Command Assistant Chief of Staff (G5), describing the good will created by civil affairs MEDCAP missions.
This MEDCAP mission is one way that the Coalition Forces are improving the quality of life for the Iraqi people so that when the coalition leaves Iraq, the citizens will have a higher standard of living, Zoeller said.
“We are making steady uphill progress in improving quality of life in Iraq,” he added. To further that progress, Zoeller said he and his 13th COSCOM G5 staff plan to conduct more MEDCAP missions in the future.
“I’d love to come here every week,” Jarry said. “I feel like I’m actually doing something to help the country.”
(Editor’s note: Capt. Catherine Wilkinson is with the 28th Public Affairs Detachment.)