Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Troops aid local residents, build friendships

Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. PAO

BAGHDAD — Combat medics are seldom short of chances to apply their skills. But as counterinsurgency efforts continue in Iraq, the medical expertise of battlefield paramedics and surgeons is sometimes co-opted to aid local residents.
Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., joined by the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division soldiers conducted a medical-civil affairs clinic in Cargouli Village June 21.
In the Cargouli Village, Maj. Kenneth Stone, a native of Ames, Iowa, and the 4-31 battalion surgeon, joined by several medics of the battalion and an Iraqi medic, treated mainly aches and pains and stomach illnesses, which the team chalked up largely to poor water quality.
“It’s sad that in most patients that we see, their issues stem from water problems,” said Spc. Erin Byers, a native of Cape Canaveral, Fla.
In these rural areas, the civilians drink, cook and clean from canal water.
Muhamad Sebeh, a resident of Cargouli Village, was one of about 200 people seen by the medics. He came to be treated for arthritis.
“It’s wonderful that the Americans are doing all the things they do,” Sebeh said. “The situation here has gotten much better since the arrests after those Soldiers were kidnapped. We’re free to walk around now, thanks to the Americans. And when people come to harass us, we kick them out.”
Several local women waiting to be seen agreed.
“It’s very, very good of the Americans to do this for us,” said Badriyya Abdullah. “Since the Soldiers got rid of the terrorists, we’ve been able to start negotiations for power and water improvements.”
The operation was hopefully just the start of improvements in the area, locals said. Cargouli Village was long a stronghold of Sunni terrorists, and is not far from the patrol base where two Soldiers were captured May 12. But since the arrests made during the search for the missing Soldiers, villagers have been bolder about pointing out terrorists and improvised explosive devices, and have even booted some passing terrorists from the area.
In the nearby village of Arab Jassim, a former sanctuary for terror, the local sheikh, the leader of a Cargouli sub-tribe, hosted the operation in his guest house.
“It’s good that you Soldiers have come out here,” said Umm Muhammad, one of the sheikh’s daughters. “I’ve seen a few repeat customers for treatment. I think doing these will help relations between the people and the Coalition Forces.”
The sheikh was also very positive.
“It’s great,” he said. “The timing isn’t so good, with the crops coming in right now, but still, we have no clinic and this sort of thing is our only access to medical care. The road to Baghdad is closed off, so it’s wonderful you have come out here.”
Company A, 478th Civil Affairs Battalion Soldiers out of Miami, Fla., also joined the efforts by distributing bags of Iraqi government-issue flour, school supplies, and clothes donated by U.S. citizens at the operations.
Maj. David Hernandez, a 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT medical provider working with the 2-69th, treated many of the patients in Arab Jassim.
“And it does improve relations – they come here to the patrol base as though I’m their doctor. So I’ve seen a lot of the people before, either when they’re sick or they’re bringing an ill family member,” said Hernandez, a native of Eagle Pass, Texas.
“With the amount of kids we see at these, I hope it will influence them to see us in a more positive light in the future,” said Sgt. Jason Lane, a native of Ridgecrest, Calif.
A similar operation was conducted June 22 by Company B, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga., in Arab Jassim, just outside the company’s patrol base. Both villages are in rural areas southwest of Baghdad.

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