Iraqi civilians turn to Iraqi Army for medical care

10 May 2007 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Zahn

A team of Iraqi medics and soldiers, and their American Military Transition Team, delivered routine but much-needed medical treatment to the local residents here May 10.

The treatment was part of a combined military engagement, or CME, in this small town about nine miles west of Fallujah. The Iraqi troops, members of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, set up their command post in a girls’ school and immediately began seeing patients.

The nearest hospital for these people is in Fallujah. This is usually a prohibitively expensive and dangerous trip; fuel is at a premium, and insurgents are indiscriminate in their placement of roadside bombs. Their best option for medical care is the Iraqi Army.

“One of the goals we were trying to accomplish (was to) keep everyone happy and provide something that the Ministry of Health just isn’t doing. The happiest day in my life will be that day when we don’t have to do CMEs, because that means the Ministry of Health is providing for all their needs,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron P. Baltosser, 36, from Jacksonville, N.C.

It was clear the word had been spread about their arrival. Entire families waiting to have their injuries and illnesses treated were already congregated by the time the troops had arrived. The majority of the civilians were treated by their fellow Iraqis, but corpsmen from the MTT team were on hand to lend any extra assistance as needed.

“It’s been over five months since we last did a CME in that area,” said Capt. Steven Brand, 38, from Baltimore, Md. “The people were excited to see the Iraqi Army soldiers as well. They have pushed the insurgents out of the town so the people were more willing to come out. It was safer for them to come out in town.”

The medics set up in an empty classroom as Marines and soldiers fanned out across the area to provide security. Once a secure perimeter was set, the crowd began filtering into the building.

“There were far more Iraqi troops in the area than us,” added Brand. “That made them more confident in the Iraqi Security Forces.”

That confidence translated into large crowds of people. For most of these people, these corpsmen and medics are the closest and most viable option for medical care.