The Catholic Defender: Band-aid Operations
It was 2006 that the 2-5 Calvary deployed to Iraq settling in the Baghdad area on FOB Victory. It was early on that I was serving as medical support with the Scouts traveling outside the wire looking for weapons caches and developing good intelligence among the people. It was important that the leaders of these communities trusted our presence and the medical support we offer was a major component.
At one location, I was called up by the Scouts Platoon Leader who wanted me to take a look as one of the village Chiefs Daughters who had burned her face with boiling water. In my inspection, the girl was about three years old with a Superficial epidermal burn, but the injury happened three days ago and it was clean. I simply gave them dry sterile dressings as there was no major issues.
Just showing respect and attention went a long way in these meetings with the Iraqi people. From this experience, after speaking with some of the people, I learned how frightened they were because of Al Qaeda. They were clearly threatened especially if they talked to Americans. So I began to develop a plan that my Medics could treat Iraqi's at the Medic level using Iraqi supplies. I first went to my Battalion Surgeon with my plan and liked it, but he wanted me to run this across our Brigade Surgeon which I was able to do.
When ever any of our Companies went out on missions outside the wire, my Medics had means to treat any situation at their level. With 8,000 patrols, this availability became a major asset for our Battalion.
At the time we first arrived to our area of Operations, we were facing hundreds of attacks principally through IED's. Al Qaeda hid among the people threatening the people but as we built our presence, we were defeating the enemy and gaining the confidence of the people. After a couple of months, the attack level against us became greatly reduced.
My Battalion Commander recognized the support we were giving was a major factor to our success of the missions. Up to this point, I had lead trauma teams treating over 400 trauma patients. We saved many lives in this process. What we were doing as medics was termed "Band-aid Operations"!
One night I was awakened by my Battalion Commander by a duty runner telling that my presence was needed ASAP so I got myself up and out in a moments noticed and reported to the Commander. I was being told that I needed to develop a plan to medically support a major Mission that our Battalion was going to spearhead.
Our Division received Orders that we were going to conduct a movement in Iraqi areas that Americans had not been. This meant that we were going to go house to house in this region and the danger was considered high. So I had to ensure that we were medically prepared to support this mission. I had to brief my support with all the elements in the Battalion Commander's meetings. This was a major endeavor as we were built in with many parts.
Traveling through enemy territory, I was out supporting Fox Company along with our Echo Company as we were developing a Joint Security Station among the Iragi community. This was Part of President Bush's successful plan getting us among the people. We were attacked on this trip receiving injured Solders from an IED in the vehicle in front of the one I was in. The explosion was like a supersonic boom and the explosion caused the sun to be darkened as debris went way up in the air. There were three injured as I set up a triage field calling for a 9-line medevac request to pick up the wounded. Out gunships provided protection as the wounded were taken to an LZ I had established near by in case if needed. We got the injured to the Green Zone within 45 minutes which helped saved their lives.
If you can get the wounded to the operation table within the "Golden hour", the chances are greatly improved of survival. There were many examples that my Medics were responsible in accomplishing many missions.
The Iraq people suffered much at this time as their medical establishment were next to nothing. The Iraq Ministry of health was non existent. I was part of a group inspecting a local hospital that had next to nothing. Bullet holes were obvious in the walls inside the building. I was tasked to set up opportunities to set up aid supporting Iraq families. It is a different scene having hundreds of Iraq women dressed in burkas lined up to be seen with their children. Many of them placed their hope in us. I'm thankful we had a great Doctor and PA in all these processes!
I was often call to go out with our Scouts if there was a request to see a medic. The children were usually born with disorders that we could do very little. I was able to identify several of these children with birth defects and through American channels get them help outside the Country. Guess who the helping Doctors were from? Israeli!
The Rosary Patrol was an essential support element for me praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy. My faith helped me a great deal through all of these events, everyday. About 13% of the time I was conducting RCIA, Bible studies, participating in Mass, the Rosary Patrol. Everyday was an adventure and we witnessed many conversions through all of this to include many in my Battalion.