Friday, March 14, 2008

Marines transport precious cargo, reunite healthier toddler with family

Lance Cpl. Jessica N. Aranda

AL ASAD, Iraq (March 7, 2008) – Assets of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) assisted in reuniting an Iraqi child with her family March 7.
Humanitarian assistance missions are just one of the ways 3rd MAW contributes to building a stronger bond between the Marine Corps and local nationals throughout al-Anbar.
“These types of missions demonstrate our willingness to partner with the Iraqi people,” said Lt. Col William T. Bufkin, the 3rd MAW (Fwd.) future operations officer. “It shows that we support Iraq as a whole. Anytime the Aviation Combat Element can serve more than a military need, it only strengthens our cause here.”
Three-year-old Amenah Fattah returned from Nashville, Tenn., after receiving open-heart surgery to repair a defect, as there were no Iraqi facilities capable of executing the extensive medical procedures.
The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment first discovered the toddler during a routine patrol through Haditha in 2007. The Marines noticed the girl’s blue lips and fingers and sought help.
“To see someone in need and want to help is human nature, and typical of a Marine,” said Sgt. Maj. Frank Scott, the 3rd MAW (Fwd.) sergeant major. “It was simply the right thing to do. The people are our main focus here, and Operation Amenah shows that.”
After discovering the child’s potentially fatal condition, the concerned Marines raised more than $30,000. The surgery performed at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt came to no cost to the family.
A year after Amenah’s first encounter with the Marines, she arrived home with good health and another chance at life.
A KC-130J Hercules belonging to Marine Aeriel Refeuling Squadron 352 transported Amenah’s father to Baghdad, where he reunited with his wife and daughter. From there, the family traveled to Al Asad, where they boarded an MV-22 Osprey to Haditha.
Utilizing air assets allowed the family to travel with the highest margin of safety, explained Capt. John A. Sax, an MV-22 pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263.
During the flight, the air crew made the voyage as comfortable as possible and succeeded in safely delivering the precious cargo.
“I felt extremely fortunate for the role that we played in delivering this daughter with her family after a successful surgery,” said Sax, a Nashville native himself. “I think it means as much to the Marines who set up the operation and orchestrated the fundraising as it did to the people who know her. We were all glad to bring her home.”

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