Story by 1st Lt. Efther Samuel, 299th BSB, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD—Soldiers with Company C, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United Stated Division – Center, in conjunction with the Iraqi Army’s 54th Brigade, 6th Division and Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Regiment, 63rd Combined Arms Battalion, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C conducted a combined medical engagement and humanitarian assistance operation Jan. 8 in Baghdad.
The event included a team of professionals consisting of three Iraqi Army medical providers, three 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div. medical providers, an Iraqi Army dentist and several Iraqi Army and U.S. Army medics.
“Working alongside my fellow U.S. providers and the Iraqi providers was very heartwarming and inspiring,” said Capt. Karen Parker, senior physician assistant with 299th BSB, 2nd AAB and a Junction City, Kan., native. “I enjoyed seeing the Iraqi doctors taking care of their people in open forum and interacting in a caring manner.”
The event brought out many individuals in the local community who do not often have the opportunity to receive medical care. Within just a few hours, the medical team evaluated and provided treatment to over 700 patients.
“(It) being my third deployment, I am seeing progress in the communities and the willingness of the locals to come to the events to meet their Iraqi medical providers and the American medical teams,” said Parker.
Many of the patients who visited the providers were experiencing problems associated with malnutrition, high blood pressure, upper respiratory symptoms, and congenital genetic disorders. While some of these aliments are not treatable with medicine, education can be invaluable in reducing symptoms and preventing further health issues.
“As an Army Nurse, combined medical engagements give me the opportunity to teach local nationals about easy and inexpensive ways to take care of themselves and their families,” said 1st Lt. Teresa Egan, brigade nurse with 2nd AAB and a Milwaukee, Wis., native. “Much of the mission focuses on educating the local populace about common ailments and how to care for them without having to rely on only taking pills.”
Indeed, much of the mission was focused on education, said Parker. The local populace benefits from information on first aid and basic medical skills in addition to receiving medications, she said.
“I thoroughly enjoyed sitting side by side with Iraqi healthcare professionals, while I explain to a few patients, for example that a smoke filled house does not help their children’s asthma,” she said. “It is a simple lifestyle change they can make to improve the health of their children. It does not cost money or require medication, and they are so happy to hear they can make a difference for themselves.”
Medical care was not the only focus on this mission, said Parker—the team provided some humanitarian support as well. During the visit, they handed out over 400 food kits, 150 book bags, 300 soccer balls and a few wheelchairs to the families within the community.