Sgt. Warren Cash, from Charlottesville, Va., Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, plays marbles with a young boy after leaders of 1-15 Inf. Regt. and the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion took a tour of the hospital in Salman Pak, Feb. 4.
FOB HAMMER, Iraq (Feb. 7, 2008) — Work is under way in Salman Pak to revitalize a hospital which has not been fully operational for about five years.
On Feb. 4, Soldiers and leaders from 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, and Team 915 of Company A, 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, from Knoxville, Tenn., currently attached to 1-15 Inf. Regt., visited the hospital.
Maj. John Wolfe, from Scottsboro, Ala., a 489th CA team leader, said the national police had used the facility as a headquarters and barracks since 2005.
“The national police were forced by circumstance to work out of the hospital and other key facilities,” said Maj. Cliff Faulkner, from Silverton, Colo., commander of Co. A, 489th CA. “Now that security has improved, they can give physical possession of key infrastructure back to local residents.”
Wolfe said the first step to revitalizing the hospital was negotiating with the city council to relocate the NP from the building. The next step is establishing community access to the hospital.
Several council leaders, a leader of the Sons of Iraq (Sol) and maintenance representatives led the tour through the hospital’s cold, dark halls.
Wolfe believes coalition forces and Iraqi leaders can restore the hospital to full operation. The facility has 70 patient beds, hematology laboratory, surgical room, birthing center, male and female patient accommodations, a café, laundry facility and emergency and ambulatory services.
If the facility returns to former capacity, jobs will be available for doctors, nurses, pediatricians and other medical professionals.
“Past insecurity and sectarian violence kept many medical professionals away,” Faulkner said. “We are optimistic that the improved security and stability will permit the return of these professionals and essential services.”
According to Capt. Jason Carney, from Knoxville, Tenn., a 489th CA team leader, changes have been made since the NP vacated the facility. The SoI took over security for the hospital and approximately three doctors see patients daily, from morning to early afternoon.
“Doctors and patients are still leery to stay overnight,” Carney said.
Wolfe said the Iraqi ministry of health is helping fund health facility improvements. The hospital in Salman Pak has already used funds to purchase water pipes and porcelain sinks.
“Now we just need to get the people to understand that the hospital is open,” Wolfe said.
Lt. Col. Jack Marr, from Minneapolis, 1-15th Inf. Regt. commander; Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Moore, from Waverly Hall, Ga.; Capt. William Clark, from Prairie Du Chien, Wis., Company A, 1-15 Inf. Regt. commander; and other battalion leaders, attended the hospital tour.
The 1-15 Inf. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March, 2007.