Story and photo by Spc. Daniel Stoutamire, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD—Soldiers with the 2nd “Dagger” Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center recently trained six Soldiers with the 6th Iraqi Army Division’s Medical Field Unit on physical therapy and pharmacy operations at Riva Ridge Troop Medical Clinic at Camp Liberty, Iraq.
The training was intended to help increase the knowledge base and experience level of the 6th IA Div. MFU’s personnel, as well as help encourage a greater dialogue between U.S. and Iraqi medical Soldiers.
“[This training] helps build enduring capabilities in the IA as U.S. forces start to draw down under the security agreement outlined by the two governments and we lose a lot of our direct partnerships,” said Lt. Col. William Johnson, deputy Stability Transition Team leader attached to 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C, who works with the 6th IA Div. on a daily basis. “So I think it helps to maximize our opportunities right now, while we’re here, to do partnership training, to show some of the techniques, the way we do things, (and learn from) the way (the IA) are already doing things, especially in the (MFU).”
Increasing the knowledge each army’s medical personnel have of the capabilities of the other side is crucial as well.
“By getting the two sides together, we break the barrier between the two sides,” said IA Capt. Mohammed, the doctor in charge of the 6th IA Div. MFU. “The American medics often do not know the capabilities of Iraqi medical staff, and vice versa.
Mohammed said this sort of training is the way to solve that, and also emphasized the importance of having skilled enlisted personnel in his formation.
“We have to depend on them,” Mohammed said. “They are a very important part, and we rely on them very much, in addition to the officers.”
The six Soldiers present at the training were broken up into two groups – four went with Capt. Sarah Baker, physical therapist with C Company, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C, to augment their knowledge of physical therapy. Two others went to learn more about pharmacy operations with Sgt. Michelle Mendoza, a pharmacy specialist also with C Co., and a Jersey City, N.J., native.
“They already know things, they have a pharmacy [at their base], but they didn’t know how we run our pharmacy,” Mendoza said.
She took the two Soldiers on a tour of the pharmacy at Riva Ridge, explaining the daily operations of a U.S. pharmacy, its layout, and also how to treat trauma patients.
Mendoza said the IA Soldiers were intrigued by the logistics of maintaining proper amounts of prescription drugs in stock.
Baker showed the four Soldiers in the physical therapy training session stretches, rehabilitation equipment such as balance balls, and monitoring technologies, used to check on a patient’s progress.
The MFU Soldiers were well-equipped and trained even before the training, Johnson said.
“[The MFU] is a well-organized, well-staffed, fully-functional clinic, but it never hurts to do partnership training and joint training with other organizations just to broaden your expertise and broaden your knowledge base,” he said.
Mohammed said he was happy with the instruction given by the Dagger medical personnel.
“I asked Lt. Col. Johnson to prepare for such training, because this is a new experience for my men, to come in here and look at the new advances in pharmacy and physical therapy (techniques) and to add to their experience, that they already have, to have a look at how things are going on at American hospitals or American clinics,” he said. “I am very satisfied at what is going on.”
Looking forward, plans are already in the works for future engagements of this kind, Johnson said.
“This definitely won’t be the last partnership training we do,” he said. “There are a number of them set up, and I think the training will only strengthen the capabilities of both sides.”