Photo Information

SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq - Dr. Ayad, head of the medical clinic here, helps Marines of the 5th Civil Affairs Group offload supplies from their vehicle May 29. The civil affairs personnel distributed supplies including 3000 syringes, 36 liters of sanitizer, and 3000 surgical masks.

Photo by Maj. Chris Phelps

5th CAG continues mending Saqlawiyah’s wounds

29 May 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar 2nd Marine Division

Blackened, sun-baked filth laid rotting outside the medical clinic and piles of used syringes were scattered about the courtyard.  Nearby, flies buzzed around people standing in line, as they warily eyed the Iraqi soldiers and U.S. Marines passing by on patrol.

This scene was before the civil affairs Marines rolled into town.

Marines with Team 3, Detachment 2, 5th Civil Affairs group, currently in direct support of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, has operated closely with local government and medical officials here since their infantry counterparts established a base of operations in this town neighboring Fallujah.

On May 29, the CAG continued their efforts by distributing numerous medical supplies to the town’s medical clinic.

“We’d coordinated with the head of the clinic, Dr. Ayad, to deliver these supplies,” said Maj. Chris Phelps, Team 3’s leader.  “It took a few weeks for the doctor to talk to his branches in the rural areas of Saqlawiyah to better understand what each of them would need.  He did all the coordination on the Iraqi end, while we did all of ours on the Marine end.  Today, we married the two up to distribute the supplies to the main clinic here.”

The Shawnee, Kan. native’s unit handed out dozens of boxes containing medical supplies, including 3,000 syringes, 36 liters of sanitizer, and 3,000 surgical masks.

Currently, insurgent activity is causing some clinics throughout Iraq to experience logistical difficulties in acquiring medical equipment from their suppliers in Baghdad.  The CAG’s contributions offer what Phelps called “a short-term solution.”

“Today, we were able to get them medical supplies to continue working,” said Phelps, a 1993 University of Kansas graduate.  “The long-term solution will be provided by the Iraqi government and the ministry of health.”

Much like Phelps’ team is doing in Saqlawiyah, American advisors are working with Iraqi officials in Baghdad to help restore the country’s medical system.

Although Phelps said this is an ongoing process, his team has already made progress in restoring this community’s infrastructure.

In addition to distributing supplies, the CAG Marines helped deliver three makeshift biohazard waste incinerators and two 55-gallon biohazard waste storage drums several weeks ago.

“We also paid four laborers to clean out the entire back lot,” Phelps said.

Previously, clinic personnel disposed of medical waste by dumping it into a field behind their building.

“Today, when we were out here, we were able to see that everything had been cleaned up, and the biohazard material was burning in the incinerators,” Phelps said.  “It’s great to go back there a few weeks later and see the incinerators smoldering, and that there’s progress.  The entire back lot was free of trash.”

Clinic personnel also expressed their gratitude for the American forces’ support.

“Thank you so much for your help,” Ayad said.  “This is going to make a difference for the kids and the surrounding communities.”

Through continued actions like these medical supply donations, Phelps said his CAG wins battles everyday against terrorism by building relations with the local community.

“This single event is not going to win the war, and it’s not the most important thing that happened today in Iraq, but in Saqlawiyah, it’s progress.  All of these small, isolated events, put together, will win the war.”