Operation Tribute to Freedom

OTF Soldier Story for March 22, 2010 - Staff Sgt. Delbert Draper

Staff Sergeant Delbert Draper

Current Unit: 1848th Medical Detachment
Current Position: Preventive Medicine Noncommissioned Officer
Component: Army Reserve
Current Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Hometown: Dayton, Ky.
Years of Service: 28

As a preventative medicine Noncommissioned Officer, Staff Sgt. Delbert Draper has a proactive response to medicine. Rather than responding to injuries or illnesses sustained in theater, he worked to prevent the ailments all together during his deployment to Iraq in 2008-2009.. By providing clean drinking water and instructing proper food preparation, he ensured the safety and health of more than 70,000 Soldiers, civilians and contractors at the Victory Base Complex in Baghdad.

Although a unique component of the Army medical field, preventive medicine is integral to maintaining the health and well-being of all Army Soldiers and personnel.

”The medics do a great job and are very professional, but they have a very specific field and are tied to a specific unit. We cared for everybody and were concerned with more than 70,000 people.” he said. “If we do our job right, no one requires patient care,”

During his deployment to Iraq in 2008-2009, he served as a team leader and was responsible for leading more than a dozen Soldiers on a daily basis. Draper was especially proud of bringing his detachment home safely, without any injuries or illnesses, something especially important given his field.

However, one challenge that Draper and his team faced throughout the deployment was the rapid rate of change.

“In preventative medicine, the best practice is a consistent practice,” explaining that when you cook food the same way and when you treat water the same way, it significantly reduces health risk.

Draper was in Iraq during the drawdown of U.S. troops in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities on June 1, 2009, and with so many changes taking place throughout the region, he said it was hard to encourage consistency despite the transitions.

Prior to his deployment last year, Draper deployed to Kosovo in 2005 and was responsible for preventative medicine during that time as well. While in Kosovo, his son, who also served in the Army, was deployed to Iraq for the second time.

With more than two decades of service prior to his deployments, Draper could have chosen to retire and not serve overseas. However, he was committed to serving his country in a time of war.

“I thought I had a moral obligation to go. I believe on a day-to-day basis, the Army doesn’t pay the Soldier for the work they do. The Army is really paying you for times of war, and I had never gone to war before. They have treated me well for the past 25 years, and I wanted to put my training to use,” he said.

In addition to his responsibilities as an Army Reserve Soldier, Draper also works as a civilian for the Army leading public health education and training programs. Draper currently resides in Anchorage, Alaska, with his wife, but travels monthly to Seattle, Wash., to complete training with his unit. With more than 28 years of service in the Army, Draper hopes to retire within the next year so that he and his wife will be able to move closer to their children and grandkids.

Telling the Army Story: Community Relations

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