Sunday, July 08, 2007

1-89 Cavalry meets new neighbors

BAGHDAD, Iraq – After recently taking over Combat Outpost Corregidor, troopers greeted their new neighbors by offering a service rarely available in the rural farmland south of Baghdad: medical care. Soldiers from Troop B, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry, brought a flatbed truck loaded with medical supplies to a small building just outside the COP, while humvees fitted with loudspeakers patrolled the area, advertising the June 30 event. To make the event a success, Troop B coordinated with other elements from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division – bringing female medics and a chaplain from 210th Brigade Support Battalion, as well as a civil affairs team to distribute humanitarian aid. “In this culture, it’s very important that an Iraqi woman be seen by a female practitioner, without any men present,” said Miami native Spc. Arianne Torrenegra, Company C, 210th BSB.  “I came out here for that reason, and because I love helping people, whoever they are – that’s why I’m a medic.” As temperatures soared to 118 degrees, residents suffering from a wide variety of ailments, from the flu to epilepsy, steadily made their way across tilled farmers’ fields to the COP.  Among the first few patients seen were three men, all suffering from a stomach flu likely caused by drinking unclean water.  The men left with oral rehydration salts, vitamins and as much bottled water as they could carry off. “This is really like a sick call for the local populace – we can diagnose and treat simple illnesses and afflictions,” said 2nd Lt. Max Smith, a medical officer for 1-89 Cav., from Grand Haven, Mich.  “We can only do so much, but we’ve got to do as much as we can.”  Iraqi soldiers helped run a checkpoint, patting down residents before they approached the medics.  Around noon, one of the Iraqi soldiers reported that a woman had collapsed in a nearby field. Immediately a team of U.S. and Iraqi troops raced to the spot where the woman lay drifting in and out of unconsciousness.  Troopers from 1-89 Cav. formed a ring of security, while medic Spc. Christina Baker, Co. C, 210th BSB, from Salem, Ore., and an Iraqi soldier
helped her to a shady grove near the main road. There she was put on a stretcher and brought to the makeshift clinic, where she received an I.V. to replace her lost fluids.  The diagnosis: unusually heavy menstruation, coupled with anemia made her especially vulnerable to the day’s punishing heat. Soldiers from 3rd Civil Affairs Battalion brought a trunk full of backpacks containing school supplies, and Chaplain (Capt.) Daniel Kang, 210th BSB, handed them out to children after their checkups. “I love seeing the kids smile,” said Kang, of Charlotte, N.C., who traveled to COP Corregidor to provide religious services to the Soldiers stationed there.  “The base I live on has plenty of chaplains, but these guys don’t have that opportunity.  Some don’t care for it, but some of the Soldiers really draw great strength from religious faith.” As 1-89 Cav.’s squadron physician’s assistant, 1st Lt. Martin Stewart had his hands full during the operation, but put it in perspective. “The value of this is immeasurable – it improves our standing with the local population to the point that they trust us, and help us in securing the sector,” Stewart, from Bryan, Texas, said.  “Since we literally live right down the street from these folks, that gives us the ability to make follow-up treatments, which vastly improves the quality of care we can give.” Stewart described how he had a medication he originally ordered for a detainee but never used, but during the MEDCAP found a local man who could use it. 
Stewart told the man to return later in the week for the medicine. The area around COP Corregidor, while seeming like sleepy farmland, is in reality a notoriously violent zone known as “the belly of the snake,” referring to its role in staging car bomb attacks on Baghdad.  Many Soldiers and civilians have died on the dusty, crater-pocked streets here. Throughout the day, the low thuds of explosive ordnance disposal teams detonating found bombs punctuated the rural quiet, reminding residents of the stark choices upon them. “Iraqis here realize that we’re going home eventually, and that al Qaeda isn’t, so they’ve got a limited time to help us root out a force that has been extremely destructive for them,” Stewart said.   “The tide is turning here, attacks are way down, and I believe missions like this have been a big part of that change.”

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