Marines, sailors provide medical care to Afghan women, children throughout northern Marjah

17 Jul 2010 | Cpl. Megan Sindelar

Due to cultural sensitivities, medical treatment for Afghan women is extremely difficult, forcing them to travel to the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, or even crossing national borders into Pakistan.

To improve the quality of life and health care for this sect of Afghan society, a team consisting of female Marines and sailors embarked on a ten-day mission throughout northern Marjah, Afghanistan, July 5, to provide medical care to the Afghan people.

With the medical engagement consisting of female medical personnel, this was the first time most of the visiting Afghan women received medical care.

The team, including a Marine female engagement team from Regimental Combat Team 7 and medical personnel from Combat Logistics Battalion 5, set up medical tents for approximately two days each at four Marjah locations.

The medical officer and corpsman treated 97 patients, primarily women and children, who traveled to each medical site from their homes.

Site 1: Initial disappointment

Upon arriving at Combat Outpost Coutou late July 5, the Marines and sailors crashed in their tent on field cots to relax and get some much needed sleep before their first medical engagement. The next day, after struggling to set up two tents and preparing their medical equipment, the Marines waited seven hours for patients to arrive. To their disappointment, no one came out and they decided to head back to the COP.

The next morning, the Marines headed back out to the tents anticipating Afghans seeking medical aid.

“If we only see one person, this will be a success,” said Navy Lt. Jisun Hahn,  a medical officer with CLB-5.

The day proved to be successful, with 13 people coming to receive medical attention. After breaking down both tents and medical equipment, the Marines headed back to the COP for rest before their departure the next morning.

Site 2: Just a couple more

The Marines jumped on an early-morning convoy headed to COP Reilly, July 7. Having arrived late in the afternoon, they relaxed and got some sleep before setting up their next site.

The Marines awoke around 6 a.m., got ready and headed out to the new site to, once again, set up their medical tents.

This site saw five Afghans the first day, including a small Afghan child whose body was covered in a horrible rash. Although it resembled chicken pox, her feet were peeling so badly, she couldn’t walk.

“I felt sorry because she looked so miserable,” said Lance Cpl. Yvienne C. Yumol, a FET member with 3/6.

The Marines treated six more Afghans before packing up the tents and jumping on an outgoing convoy to Patrol Base Siapan.

Site 3: From obstacles to great progress

Upon arrival at PB Siapan, July 11, the Marines threw their packs under a Hesco shelter and went straight to the next site.

As the Marines began to set up the medical tents, a massive sandstorm hit their area, pelting them with debris. Pushing through the sandstorm and effectively putting up one of tents, which was difficult enough without the wind and sand, the Marines sat on each leg of the tent to hold it down until stakes and sandbags were brought to take their places.

The Marines headed back into the PB, knowing the villagers were not going to visit the site during the sandstorm,

The next two days proved very successful for the team, as they saw about 70 patients come through the medical tent. The Marines split up into separate groups with some searching the local Afghans before entering the site, others playing with the children and speaking, with what little Pashtu they had learned during training, to the Afghans waiting to be seen by the medical staff.

“We’ve made some great relations with families and it can only get better from here,” said Yumol, from Los Angeles.

Yumol and the other FET Marines handed out toys and snacks to the children while their mothers received medical treatment. Some of the children ran around giggling, while wearing the Marines’ Kevlar helmets.

“They were very happy to come see us because there are no female doctors around,” said Hahn. “I believe we helped the females become more familiar and grateful of us being around.”

Site 4: Further progress, improved relations

The last stop on the medical engagement tour was at COP Sistani, where the Marines of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, called home. The Marines were happy to find a building they could use instead out of the tents in which they were working.

The Marines were able to see 10 patients in the two days they spent at the site. They saw mostly Afghan men and children with aches and pains from farming. One woman suffered from a horrible tumor and had to be pushed to the site in a wheel barrow.

“I wish there was something more I could do for her,” said Hahn, who could only treat th

Hahn, from Enid, Okla., felt that her team provided great medical care to locals who were in eminent need of medical aid.

“We definitely made a positive effect,” said Hahn. “I’m not sure how much though, as we were only at each location two days.”