By U.S. Army Spc. Jason DangelNovember 9, 2006
BAGHDAD, Nov. 8, 2006 - Someone once said, "little things can go a long way," and this is exactly what Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldiers aimed to achieve as they teamed up with Iraqi soldiers from the 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, to provide a free, one-day medical screening for the citizens of Baghdad's Al Mansour neighborhood Nov. 4.
Iraqi army doctors and medics, along with medical personnel from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, as well as medics and doctors from the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, rendered medical care to approximately 200 Iraqi citizens during the event.
The combined medical operation provided citizens of the neighborhood with basic health care and the medicine needed for their ailments.
Care packages, wheel chairs, blankets and toys where also distributed to the patients by soldiers from the 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, currently attached to the 4th BCT.
"There just isn't enough medical help in the country," explained Col. Todd Dombroski, surgeon, 1st Bn., 12th Inf. Regt., as scores of citizens lined up outside of a small school house.
"This event shows that the Iraqi army and the Ministry of Health truly care for the citizens here and want to help," he said.
Dombroski explained that proper health care and medical supply is severely lacking in many parts of Iraq, particularly Baghdad, and he hopes small events like the one on Saturday will open the door to bigger and better medical systems for the people of the city.
Capt. Bob Hilleman, physicians assistant, 2nd Bn., 1st Inf. Regt., said he and his medical team saw a myriad of different ailments during the day, and helped any way they could, but primarily played an advisory role to their Iraqi counterparts as the Iraqi doctors and medics treated the citizens.
"It's important for the Iraqi people to understand that they can go to Iraqis for treatment," Hilleman explained. "We have Iraqi physicians and nurses here today that are very capable, and it also helps to make the situation more comfortable for the citizens while they're being treated because there are no language barriers or translation problems like the ones we sometimes encounter when we do the same thing."
The event was also used to educate the citizens of Al Mansour on the importance of healthcare and how to recognize certain illnesses before it's too late.
"Just from my experience on the ground, a lot of the families we see don't know who to go to or what to do when they are feeling ill," said Pvt. Kyle Exzabe, medic, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 1st Inf. Regt.
"The last time our unit participated in one of these events, and from what I understand, a lot of the citizens were diagnosed with some pretty serious stuff, such as tuberculosis and other illnesses of that nature - and that is why we stress to the citizens to get treated early and often when they're sick. It will help save lives," he said.
Despite the success of the medical operation, medical personnel from both the 172nd SBCT and the 4th BCT agree that there is a long way to go until the Iraqi medical system is up to par due to the more than two decades of war and economic sanctions the Iraqi people endured during the later half of the 1990s, said Dombroski.
Security in many parts of Baghdad Province have also played a huge part in the lack of adequate medical supplies and services as Coalition Forces continue to fight terrorism and provide security to the Iraqi people, he explained.
"We try our best to help as much as we can. Personally, I have overseen the training of many Iraqi army medics and (doctors), and they do great things, but there is still a lot of work to do."