Story and photo by Spc. William A. Joeckel, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD—Soldiers with 1st “Vanguard” Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center and medical officers from Camp Taji, Iraq, recently extended a helping hand to locals by donating medical supplies to a small Iraqi clinic.
Soldiers with the 9th Iraqi Army Division played a large role in the delivery of the medical aid, from transporting the supplies to providing security alongside their American counterparts.
“The importance of the combined medical engagement was to go out to a local Iraqi clinic, provide patients with medicine, and assist the doctors with any questions that they had,” said 2nd Lt. Tameka Hall, the medical officer with 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. and a Sacramento, Calif. native. “We identified issues and then informed the people who can make those changes happen.”
In developing countries, which often lack sufficient medical infrastructure, seemingly minor illnesses can be deadly or life-altering. Dozens of Iraqis came to the medical aid distribution site to receive medicines that are occasionally unavailable to them. Among these were many children who came to the event to receive aid and have the opportunity to meet and talk to American Soldiers.
Soldiers with Company A “Apocalypse,” 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt., helped to provide security for the medical aid distribution along with the 9th IA Div., while the medical officers held a meeting with doctors and assisted in the examination of patients that came in that day.
“I worked with two doctors who were attending their patients,” Hall said. “A lot of the patients had skin problems, broken arms, and parasites.”
A variety of adult and children medical supplies were given to the clinic, ranging from vitamins, cough syrup, pain relievers, and anti-parasite drugs. Common in hospitals and drug stores across the U.S., they can be difficult to come across in Iraq.
For the doctors at the clinic, who are often overloaded with patients, assistance from American and Iraqi Soldiers with medical supplies and advice was well-received.
“We have a lot of issues receiving medical supplies for our patients,” an Iraqi doctor at the clinic said. “Medical support is always welcomed.”
Many of the children at the clinic had problems with parasites, which can be attributed to the poor sanitation in the areas in which they live. Some of the children were also malnourished.
Throughout the event, the Iraqi doctors were open to the suggestions the U.S. Army medical officers made. Since the doctors can occasionally get overloaded with patients, learning a different viewpoint on better ways to treat ailments from was helpful, they said.
“They were very open to my suggestions, so they came to me with their problems and I would wait for their doctor to finish diagnosing the patient,” Hall said. “Afterwards, I gave the doctor a review on how well he did and how to improve.”
The gratitude of the Iraqis could be seen from the smiles on the faces from both Iraqi medical providers and patients.
“The [adult] patients were very appreciative and expressed their thanks by shaking hands,” Hall said. “The children would give hugs.”
The mission showed that the partnership of Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers can successfully accomplish both security and humanitarian missions.
“The Iraqi doctors were really surprised with the amount of patients who showed up, they said it was way more than usual, and [they thought] it was due to the U.S. and Iraqi [Soldiers] there helping out,” said Hall.
Furthermore, the Iraqi Army was able to gain the trust of the people that they protect on a daily basis. In the end, the medical aid donation was a success that exceeded expectations of both the Iraqis and U.S. Soldiers who participated.
“I think the Iraqis have more confidence now in their medical clinic because it was their doctor who was writing the prescriptions to them,” said Hall. “We were just there to help.”