Hawaii-based Marines help provide medical care to Iraqis

30 Apr 2008 | Cpl. Chadwick deBree

A convoy of humvees, 7-ton trucks, and mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles pull up to a sheik’s home. As they arrive, local citizens, already lined up, wait outside the gate to receive aid through the teamwork of the local government, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces.   

On April 12 and 13, Marines of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, alongside Iraqi doctors, conducted a cooperative medical engagement to provide medical care to Iraqi civilians in the Gnather and Lahib villages.           

On the first day, Iraqis eagerly waited as Marines from Company F admitted them one at a time to maintain security and organization. Upon going through the gates, the Iraqis would receive a number to help keep track of how many people showed up. They stood in line outside a room where Iraqi doctors listened to their complaints and examined them to help identify their problem.            

“Most of the people had upper respiratory tract infections, malnutrition, stomach problems from drinking dirty water and skin infections,” said Dr. Ali Karagoli, an Iraqi medical doctor. “I’m Iraqi so I know what the main complaints are going to be. I look them over to see how severe their condition is and prescribe them medicine to help make them healthy again.”           

After being examined by one of the three doctors, the patients went into the next room where they received the medicine that they were prescribed. The battalion also passed out toys, clothes and school supplies to the children who had attended that day.           

The whole event came together when the Marines attended a city council meeting where the subject of health care was brought up and the battalion commander wanted to give two days to help provide medical care for the civilians, said Capt. J.C. Lang, commanding officer, Company E, 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines.             

“It turned out how we expected it to turn out,” Lang said. “We had a little less than 500 people show up today. This is what the Iraqis expected of their government. They expected someone to help take care of them and provide medical care. All Echo Company did today was provide security.”           

“The mission here, our mission, is transition,” Lang said. “We want to show the Iraqis that we are not an occupying force, but that we are genuine in helping them and seeking the best for them. This event today isn’t a photo op so a movie star can come out gain publicity or anything. This is our job here, this is what we do. I expected we would have a sweaty afternoon today and we did. Everyone out here today is willing to work hard to help the Iraqi people get the attention that they need. One thing that I have noticed is that the units that are accepted out here and successful, are the ones that work with the culture, and that’s what we are doing. The transition is moving full steam ahead.”           

As the second day of the CME came to a close, Karagoli reflects on the two-day event as a success.           

“This is the first time I have done a CME with this unit and everything went well and it was well organized,” he said. “This event is very helpful for the Iraqi people because the medical is free for them (during the event). This is very important to the people because there aren’t many clinics open or supplies in the area. I know that the people are grateful for events like this because it shows them the coalition does care about them.”           

The Hawaii-based unit is currently deployed to Iraqi to help transition authority back to the Iraqi people.