Cpl. Mary Warren, a water support technician with Combat Logistics Battalion 5, comforts a young Afghan boy while Dr. Abdul Bari examines him during a medical engagement at the Aynak School in Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mark Fayloga)
AYNAK SCHOOL, Afghanistan (Aug. 3, 2010) — As squads of Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers marched their way past the line of small Afghan stores, shopkeeper Mohammad Wali wondered what was happening.
It could have been just like any other patrol, except on most patrols the men aren’t carrying brooms. Wali was curious.
An ANA soldier told Wali the Marines have a doctor coming to the Aynak School to provide treatment for anyone who comes by.
If this had been five days earlier, Wali might have continued about his day and tended to his humble shop, but for the past two days his 10-year-old brother was in so much pain he couldn’t walk.
What started as a tiny bump just below the right side of his brother Ismatullah’s waist was now a bacteria-filled abscess about the size of a ping pong ball. So, Wali put his brother on his motorcycle and they rode down to the Aynak School where Ismatullah became one of the more than 60 Afghan locals treated during a medical engagement July 24.
Corpsmen and Marines partnered with Afghan physician Dr. Abdul Bari to help provide care for those in need, but also to push locals to depend more on their own medical care.
“The goal was Afghans helping Afghans, supported by Marines and Navy,” said 1st Lt. Michael A. Cornell, executive officer, India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and organizer of the medical engagement. “We’ve established a good relationship with Dr. Bari. Him coming out and providing support shows his willingness to assist us, so we look to assist him in building up his clinics that he currently has and do some projects that benefit the local community and the health care system of our area of operations.”
Throughout the morning the line outside of the school steadily grew as Afghans patiently waited their turn to be seen. The majority of patients were children and many of their problems could be fixed with better nutrition, but Bari and the corpsmen did what they could for those who came.
“We’ve met together before, but this is our first time working together like this and I enjoyed it,” Bari said of his partnership with the corpsmen. “I came to help you guys and help my own people. If I have the time, why not come help?”
Bari, a graduate of Kabul University, owns three clinics in Kalaj, about six miles away from the school, and worked pro bono at the engagement.
“He’s very receptive to helping the local nationals, but just like any other doctor he’s a very busy man,” Cornell said of Bari. “We’re looking to hold another engage in the future at one of his clinics.”
Throughout the day, Bari met with each patient with corpsmen on hand to provide support and assist with treatment.
“I thought the day was pretty beneficial for both us and the Afghans,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Eulogio Q. Gutierrez, an independent duty corpsman with India Company. “I shadowed him to make sure the primary care was still with him, with me supporting him, so the people know he is the main doctor over here. We’re just here to help as much as we can.”
When it was Ismatullah’s turn to be seen by the doctor and corpsmen, his brother helped him hobble in. As had been the case all day, Bari and the corpsmen worked together to identify the problem and tackle treatment. Ismatullah winced and moaned in pain as tears ran down his face while the men worked together to pop and clean his wound. Bari and the corpsmen expect him to be back to normal after a few days.
“It hurt very much,” Ismatullah said. “But I’m feeling better now.”