By Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public AffairsDecember 14, 2007
AL AWAD, Iraq - With bullets having shattered the life he once knew along with the bones in the upper part of his leg nearly four months ago, 7-year-old Saddam, a local Iraqi boy, is receiving help with his recovery from Iraqi Army medics serving in the 3rd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized).
The Iraqi medics are taking the lead in coordinating healthcare for the boy, who suffered wounds when Al Qaeda operatives orchestrated a drive-by shooting near his Al Awad home that left his 4-year-old sister dead. Continuing their relations within the community, the Iraqi soldiers provided an ambulance to transport Saddam to the 86th Combat Support Hospital (CSH) in Baghdad for a Dec. 5 follow-up appointment.
Along with taking Saddam to the capital city for treatment, the 3rd Bde., 9th IA Div. (Mech.) medics also coordinated with Saddam's family for the transport as well as enlisting the help of Soldiers from the 930 Military Transition Team, who served in a minimal advisory role to the Iraqi medics and as security escorts in the convoy to the International Zone where the CSH is located.
"Things like this really show the Iraqi people in our area of operations, that the Iraqi Army is there to help them," said Lancaster, Mass., native Maj. Eric Ogborn, brigade military transition team operations officer for the 930 Military Transition Team. "It gives them confidence in the Iraqi Army and that Iraqi soldiers are committed to the families living here."
Since the beginning of Saddam's treatment, the 930 MTT has been coordinating with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment-a battalion that operates in Al Awad, Hor Al Bosh and other areas with its 3rd Brigade Iraqi Army counterparts. Both units worked to assist the 3rd Bde., 9th IA Div. (Mech.) in aiding the boy and his family and transitioning much of the responsibility for his care to the Iraqi medics.
"It (what happened to the boy and his family) was a really a horrible thing and an intentional act (by Al Qaeda operatives) done to intimidate the locals through fear," said Staff Sgt. Aaron Rushford, who hails from Winthrob, N.Y., while explaining that the extremist group's tactics to keep the locals under their thumb, didn't work. "These kind of acts have instead reinforced with the Iraqi people a need to stand up to Al Qaeda and other terrorist threats."
"When we first came across Saddam and his sister, who died later from complications due to a gunshot wound to the stomach, there was a flood of emotions," said Stafford, Va., native Lt. Col. Mike Loew, brigade MTT chief. "Almost everyone had tears in their eyes, and everyone, since then, has done their part to help out. The hardest part of the whole thing for the family has been the loss of the sister."
"The Iraqi Army provides the means and the U.S. provides the escorts, so everybody plays a little role and the boy gets the treatment that he needs," said Rushford.
When the Iraqi ambulance arrived at the CSH, three Iraqi medics attended Saddam, ensuring he was comfortable before wheeling him via a gurney into the CSH, where a U.S. staff of orthopedic technicians and radiological experts examined him.
The day's trip to the CSH marked Saddam's third check up after receiving surgery at the hospital to heal the broken bones in the upper part of his leg to which an external fixator is affixed-a device consisting of metal rods that keep the bones in place so they can heal properly.
"He has a lot of bone matter to generate, it was not an average break," said Rushford.
"He may require further surgery to help fuse the bones," said Staff Sgt. Marcell Jones, a medic with the 930 MTT who hails from Williamsburg, Va.
Yet even with all the different diagnoses, the medical experts working on the boy are hopeful for his recovery.
"One of the doctors said she hopes to see him playing soccer in February," said Loew, also adding that Saddam, despite all that has befallen him, has remained in good spirits.
Once Saddam's visit to the CSH was over, the Iraqi medics helped answer questions that the family had about his treatment-such as the best ways to redress and clean the boy's wound and the proper dosage for medications that the boy takes to stave off infection. They will also help the family coordinate for the boy's future treatment.
"The IAs really get into doing this and you can see in their eyes that it's really very rewarding from their perspective," said Loew. "The family has been extremely grateful for the care that they have received."
"This has been really awesome for the advancement of cohesion between the Iraqi Army and Iraqi civilians," said Jones. "I feel really good about it and our role in helping these guys stand up their country on their own and help their own people."
Over the course of his treatment, Saddam has been showered with gifts from both Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers to include soccer balls, a teddy bear, toy cars and candy.
As Saddam is recovering, so it seems the sectarian rifts that once plagued his hometown of Al Awad with extremist violence are also healing, according to Maj. Chris Kuhn, a battalion 0930 MTT team chief.
"We've definitely seen a decrease in violence in the area," said Kuhn, who hails from Middletown, Pa. "There have been a lot of positive changes and it's a good thing to see."
As the Iraqi Army troops drove Saddam back to his home, the ambulance passed by newly opened shops where people lined the streets buying goods ranging from food to furniture and electronics -sights that were not common four months ago when Saddam was attacked but are signs of the type of normal life the people in the village are choosing over extremist violence, said Kuhn.