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Local Iraqis receive a helping hand

22 Jun 2006 | Cpl. William Skelton

Marines with 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment and soldiers from the Iraqi Army provided much needed medical aid to the people here June 22.

More than 300 men, women and children received medications and exams by doctors working with the battalion. The purpose of the cooperative medical engagement was to provide Gnather residents with much needed medical attention, as well as build relations between the residents and Coalition Forces.

“I thought it went really well,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Henry J. Krueger, a 24-year-old corpsman from Detroit. “I think the people were happy to receive the care we gave them.”

This medical engagement makes the third for the battalion since arriving in country this past January. The team of Marines, sailors, Iraqi soldiers and civilians worked tirelessly to give much needed medical support to the region. Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force’s Headquarters Group, Combat Logistics Battalion 5 and sailors from Fallujah Surgical made up the medical team.

“We saw approximately 300 people today,” said Lance Cpl. Randy C. Classon, a 20-year-old infantryman from Sturgeon, S.D. “Mostly older males and a lot of older females.”

The people came in with a variety of illnesses for the team to address.  Most were minor and required basic medical attention.

“Most of this population has a lot of stomach problems and back pain,” said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Virginia M. Mayo, a 28-year-old corpsman from Newport Richey, Fla. “We just try to help them as much as we can and provide them with some medications to feel better.”

A few of the people came in with more serious illnesses. The corpsmen and doctors provided the aid they could and referred the people to nearby hospitals for further treatment.

“The most difficult part of the day was seeing the people we couldn’t do anything for,” Mayo said. “It was tough seeing them and realizing we couldn’t help and seeing them walk away.”

Interpreters were on hand to smooth out one of the toughest barriers the team faced – the language barrier.

“We had a lot of help today. The interpreters helped out tremendously,” Mayo said. “Without them, communication would be impossible.”

When the lines grew long, Iraqi soldiers also provided linguistic support for some of the doctors while they were providing care.

Soldiers stood guard at the entrance and other posts throughout the school house that served as an ad-hoc clinic. The Iraqi Army is preparing to take over responsibility for security in the area in the near future.

“The Iraqi soldiers checked the people out as they come through the entrance,” Classon said. “They are scanning them with a medal detector to ensure that no one is trying to bring in anything they are not supposed to.”

The Iraqi people also received blankets, clothes, water and other items provided by Coalition Forces. 

The close cooperation between the Marines and the Iraqi Army proved for a successful day for all involved.

“I think it went really well,” Classon said. “I think the people know we are really here to help.”