May 22, 2008 —
A Georgian soldier greets an Iraqi child during a medical assistance mission in the Zuwarijat district of al-Kut, Iraq, May 19. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel T. West)
FOB DELTA, Iraq (May 21, 2008) – Coalition forces provided medical care and supplies to more than 200 people during a medical assistance visit in the Zuwarijat district of al-Kut, Iraq, May 19.
Medical care was provided by local Iraqi doctors, Georgian doctors from the 1st Georgian Infantry Brigade, a Salvadoran doctor and dentist, along with paramedics from the Cuscatlan Battalion and medics from Company C, 26th Brigade Support Battalion, from Fort Stewart, Ga.
Treated patients received medication for their conditions and basic hygiene supplies.
Iraqi security forces and Soldiers of the 511th Military Police Company, from Fort Drum, N.Y., provided security.
The 511th MP Co. medics also gave a hand with the medical assistance visit.
It brought medical aid to people who are otherwise too poor to afford care and provided an opportunity for coalition and Iraqi doctors to work side-by-side, said Capt. Hayder Ali Adnan, an Iraqi policeman.
“It is difficult to put together that big of an operation,” said Sgt. Gopal Singh, one of the pre-screening medics, and the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Company C element. “There was a wide variety of conditions sent through, and the coalition doctors really came together to treat them.”
Singh’s impression of the people was one of hope.
“It didn’t matter what they’d been told before,” he said. “They thought we could help them. They were very friendly, and even when we couldn’t help, they weren’t hostile. One old gentleman even reached in to where I was handing out medicine and gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek.”
The Zuwarijat district has not always been so welcoming, though.
“Historically, it was a Jaysh al-Mahdi stronghold,” said Maj. Stacy Gerber, 214th Fires Brigade civil and military operations officer. “Iraqi security forces recently opened three security stations there, reaching out to residents who had been threatened by criminal elements and neglected by the government of Iraq.”
Since entering the area, ISF have seen a steady growth in receptiveness to their presence from the local population.
Adnan said at first citizens were afraid, but soon they saw how the ISF was securing their area and began bringing them water, tea and food.
“Today’s (medical assistance visit) shows the capability for Iraqi security forces, coalition forces and the government of Iraq to enter a district and provide needed care to the residents,” Gerber said. “No attacks were made against our forces today.”
Singh agreed to the event success.
“Firsthand, this was the most amazing thing I’ve seen,” Singh said. “Today, we couldn’t tell that this had been a hostile area. If this is what it takes to get the Iraqi infrastructure going, I’ll do as many I need to do.”