By Staff Sgt. Tanya ThomasSeptember 13, 2010
KARMAH, Iraq (Army News Service, Sept. 13, 2010) -- Hundreds of Karmah, Iraq, residents received free medical care Sept. 7, during a combined medical engagement between Iraqi and U.S. forces.
Soldiers with 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, United States Division-Center, joined counterparts assigned to the 1st Iraqi Army Division and Karmah Police Department who hosted the event that afforded some citizens their first trip to the doctor's office.
"About a good 10 percent of the families said that they have never seen a health care provider before," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Leong, regimental surgeon with 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th AAB. "The people we saw today left with a lot of smiles on their faces."
Leong and Pfc. Charity Weldon, a medic with the 4th AAB, provided medical assessments for women and children while Iraqi Army doctors treated male patients and organized a pharmacy at the free clinic. In addition, Iraqi Army Soldiers and Iraqi Police officers distributed 500 food packages containing rice, flour, sugar, powdered milk and cooking oil, as well as school supplies and soccer balls, to those who attended.
Leong said with the change in the Iraqi government in transition, events like the ISF-led medical engagement in Karmah help gain Iraqi citizens' trust.
"This was an opportunity for the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police -- as representatives of the central government -- to be seen and for the local population to realize that they are actually there to help," he said. "It's a new concept for them, but it's a very important one."
"They provided tremendous security; it was very well organized and the patient flow was great," Leong said. "I'm really impressed. The Iraqi Security Forces are doing great work."
Weldon said she agreed with Leong and shared similar sentiments.
"Today I was amazed," she said. "I wasn't really sure what to expect, but we saw hundreds of people, so it was a great turnout. I know these people have never really received care like this before; some of them have never even gone to a doctor before. This is probably their first experience being able to come to a medical facility, receive medications that they've never been able to have -- just simple things that we take for granted."