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‘America’s Battalion’ makes midnight run to aid seven-year-old Iraqi girl

9 Sep 2006 | Gunnery Sgt. Mark Oliva

“America’s Battalion” Marines made a midnight run to rush to the aid of a 7-year-old Iraqi girl after she fell from a three-story building Sept. 9.

Marines from Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, rushed the girl to Camp Fallujah’s surgical center for treatment after local police were unable to get her proper medical attention.

The battalion is serving with Regimental Combat Team 5.

The incident occurred late at night in Gharmah, a small city north of Fallujah.  Iraqi police there tried to rush the young girl to the Jordanian hospital in Fallujah, but had difficulty getting to the hospital, according to 1st Lt. Joshua R. Rosales, a 25-year-old platoon commander who responded to the call for help.

“We got the call from the commanding officer to link up with Iraqi Police at the police station,” explained Rosales, from Raleigh, N.C.  “We met up with them in Gharmah, and they had the little girl.  They wanted us to be careful.”

Rosales said the girl was accompanied by her uncle.  She was crying, suffering from waves of pain from her injuries.  She was scared, and then Marines were loading her into the back of a humvee.  Rosales’ hospital corpsman, Navy Seaman Royce A. Ross, a 23-year-old from Houston, got to work immediately checking his tiny patient.

“I was making sure all her vital signs were good,” Ross explained.  “Everything looked good enough to move her.  I saw right away she was going to be OK.”

Ross saw that she already had an intravenous tube inserted into her arm, but the tubing wasn’t put in properly.  He spoke through his broken Arabic and the girl’s uncle’s broken English to get permission to start another. 

“The blood clotted at the IV,” he explained.  “I wanted to start another but her uncle didn’t want me to.”

Ross kept on with his preliminary examination.  He said he saw a large contusion to the girl’s left wrist and possibly a fracture. The girl’s breathing was labored.  Ross said he was concerned there were possible injuries to her chest affecting her breathing.

“It sounded like she was snoring,” he said.  “What we had then was a possible broken wrist, possible problems with her torso, but she was crying, so she was breathing.  We knew she’d be okay.”

Still, Marines couldn’t be sure until they could get the young child to the trauma center at Camp Fallujah to have a thorough examination.  Ross, the girl, her uncle and Cpl. Jared S. Nelson, a 21-year-old from Salisbury, Md., climbed into the back of the humvee for the sprint from Gharmah to Camp Fallujah. 

Nelson said he made similar runs last time he was deployed to Iraq, but it was always to rush a Marine to safety.  This time was a little different.

“I provided security in the back,” he said.  “They couldn’t all get down low, so I kept watch over them while we drove.  It was pretty bumpy.”

Nelson watched his passengers from the corner of his eye.  Ross continued to tend to the girl, and her uncle repositioned her stretcher every time the humvee jolted over a bump.

Rosales, Ross and Nelson delivered the Iraqi girl to Fallujah Surgical where Navy doctors and corpsmen took over.  They continued with more in-depth examinations.

“They did as good as they could by bringing them in,” said Navy Capt. David Norman, a 51-year-old nurse anesthetist from San Diego assigned to Fallujah Surgical.  “The corpsman did an excellent job.  She was a challenging case.  Her injuries were beyond our abilities to diagnose.”

Norman said doctors identified the left wrist fracture Ross discovered and suspected she might have suffered possible head injuries and a pelvic fracture.  Doctors decided to medically evacuate the girl along with her uncle to Coalition treatment facilities in Baghdad for more extensive care.

“If she did sustain head injuries and a pelvic fracture, she could have died if they didn’t respond like they did,” Norman added.

“This was my first time working as an ambulance for Iraqis,” Ross said.  “It was good to be able to treat someone you see on the streets all the time.”

“It’s nice because you know the kids are innocent,” Nelson added.  “I’m always talking to the kids.”

Nelson and Ross didn’t think much of their actions.  They said it was part of the job, just a little more satisfying because it demonstrated to that family and the community in Gharmah that Marines are here to help them, no matter what the case.

“It’s hard to show we’re working for hearts and minds in the infantry,” Nelson said.  “This was an example of it tonight.”

“This shows the people we’re out here for them.  In our line of work, that’s sometimes hard to do,” Ross said.  “It shows that when someone gets hurts, we can step out and let that other side shine.”

Rosales said he was proud of his team’s reaction to the call for help.  They maintained cool heads and were able to adapt from combat operations to the midnight mercy run without missing a beat.

“They put themselves at risk for this little girl,” Rosales said.  “That’s something I see all the Marines doing.  They put themselves at risk for the Iraqi people.”

This mission, though, is more rewarding than some of the routine operations.  They were able to ease the pain of a little girl, help a family and do something good for the community. 

“You want to do things like this, especially for the kids,” Nelson said.  “The little girls are always the sweet, shy ones that come up and ask for candy.”