MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When Seaman Hipolito V. Avitia, 21, from Albuquerque, N.M., deployed to Iraq for the second time at the beginning of this year, he thought it would be exactly the same as he left it in 2004.
But now, after his deployment in the Al Anbar province has gone by, the 2000 graduate of Rio Grande High School has seen not only a different part of Iraq, but a difference in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As a corpsman, or field doctor, for Company F, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, who were south of Baghdad in 2004, Avitia experienced mainly one type of injury.
“Last year there were more gun shot wounds than anything else. I think that’s because there was a little bit more face to face combat, but this year, insurgents are using this coward tactic of improvised explosive devices and mines, so the injuries have been a little different,” Avitia explained.
Avitia, now a Corpsman with Regimental Combat Team-2, explained that the difficulties in dealing with IED or mine injuries are greater than gun shot wounds.
“The possibilities are much greater with IEDs. Shrapnel is usually involved, you could get a concussion from the blast of it or it could kill you instantly, which is frustrating for Corpsman because it gives us no chance to save people,” he continued. “Last year we didn’t have mines so this is a new type of war we’re in.”
Avitia explained that the hardest thing to deal with is the same in both combat situations.
“The hardest thing is getting to know your Marine and then having one of them die, it doesn’t get any easier to deal with when you have more experience,” he said.
According to Avitia, no Marine has died under his care and that’s something he feels good about.
“All my training kicks in when I’m dealing with a combat injury, so I just react fast and try to help them the best I can,” he said.
Avitia has also helped a few local Iraqi civilians along with working on his Marines.
“I treat them just as I would a Marine, if they are hurt, I do my best to help them make it,” he explained.
Avitia has participated in many different operations so far during his second deployment, such as Operation Matador, Rohme (Spear) and River Sweep.
He said that as much as he tries not to, he continues to compare this deployment in the Al Anbar province to his last deployment.
“Every time I compare them I see the difference and overall it’s better out here now than it was before,” he elaborated. “The living conditions are better for us, we have showers that work, a nice chow hall and it seems like the Iraqi citizens living conditions have improved as well.”
“I want to make it home and for all the Marines under my care to make it home,” he said.
When he returns to the United States he has 10 months left on his contract and has decided he wants to get out of the Navy and go to college. He still wants to pursue a career in medicine.
“I’m most likely going to return home to New Mexico, but I will never forget the experiences I’ve had during these two deployments to Iraq,” he explained.