Operation Exhale brings sigh of relief
September 15, 2009
BAGHDAD - Oxygen tanks are necessary for any hospital and they are vital for performing surgery.
"Sometimes we stop doing these surgeries because we have to wait for oxygen," said Mohammed Mamoud Ahmed, an electrical engineer for Abu Ghraib Hospital. "It has happened a couple of times and when it gets critical, we have to get it from other hospitals."
To prevent this incident from happening again, the Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment and 442nd Civil Affairs Bn., dropped off an industrial oxygen generator at the hospital, Sept. 12, here.
"One of our biggest problems is the oxygen supply," said Mohammed. "With the winter coming, that's the peak season for colds and illnesses when we need oxygen here the most."
The staff at the hospital waited patiently for a long time for an answer to this problem and were excited when U.S. troops offered a solution, explained Mohammed.
"We used to suffer too much because we would bring oxygen from as far away as Ramadi," explained Mohammed. "That's about 100 kilometers away."
He also said that the community is grateful to have a good connection with U.S. forces and have a chance to have their concerns really listened to and understood.
"This project has tangible benefits...It actually keeps people safe and that's an important perk," said 1st Lt. Noah Webster, project manager and native of Austin, Texas, assigned to HHC, 2nd Bn., 8th Cav. Regt., attached to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.
The new oxygen machine will provide the over-capacity hospital with a necessary tool to help the people of Iraq, added Webster.
"It gives the hospital more independence and it helps the local people," said Mohammed. "The poor and underprivileged people will benefit the most from this machine."
According to the administration, the hospital needs about 50 bottles of oxygen a day for patients. The new oxygen generator running at maximum capacity will be able to provide 75 bottles per day, explained Webster.
It wasn't easy for U.S. forces to coordinate getting the generator to its new home. The hulking machine came from New York to Chicago and then overseas to Dubai and eventually Baghdad, but Webster said the bottom-line was good cross-unit coordination.
After moving the machine into place with a large forklift at a congested Abu Ghraib Hospital, the Soldiers held a small ceremony to complete the event.
"We're really not here anymore to fight in a kinetic capacity, but more in a civil capacity," explained Webster. "The locals see us getting this huge piece of equipment off the back of a flatbed truck and they may not know what it is, but they know we're here to help."
With a sigh of relief, the Soldiers graciously accepted thanks from the staff of the hospital and agreed that Operation Exhale brought a breath of fresh air to a hopeful community.