Friday, November 28, 2008

U.S. military begins partnership with Haditha Hospital

HADITHA, Iraq – U.S. military medical personnel from the 345th Combat Support Hospital aboard Al Asad Air Base have taken the first steps toward establishing a partnership with the Iraqi hospital here.

Army personnel from the 345th along with service members from the Navy and Marine Corps headed to Haditha Hospital Oct. 30 to participate in the first key leadership engagement between the two hospitals.

The partnership is designed to increase the capabilities and quality of care available at Haditha Hospital. During the visit, Army doctors met with Iraqi doctors and hospital administrators to gather information regarding what it will take to return the Iraqi facility to its full capabilities.

The biggest challenges will be to increase the quality of basic services and modernize the facility that deteriorated under Saddam Hussein’s regime, according to Col. Dwight Shen, the key leader engagement team leader and the deputy chief of clinical services at the 345th CSH. Shen described the hospital’s current state as “primitive.”

The 2nd Class Petty Officers Association out of Camp Pendleton, Calif. helped to kick start the partnership between the two hospitals by donating more than 200 medical textbooks to the hospital. Petty Officer 1st Class Jesse Tossetti, a corpsman with 3rd Bn. 7th Marine Regt., participated in the initial visit to the hospital and delivered the textbooks for the association.

“This partnership can only benefit the local people of Haditha,” said Tossetti.
Initially doctors and corpsman from the U.S. military will focus their efforts on teaching Iraqi medical personnel about basic hygiene, infection control, preventative medicine and the essential skills of basic life support, according to Shen.

“This program needs to use all resources available and is not branch specific,” said Shen. “Depending on what Navy, Marine and Air Force personnel are available, their expertise will be fully utilized in supporting this partnership.”

As Shen and the other members of the engagement team toured the 110-bed facility, they noted the hospital’s dire need for basic technology. Patient rooms and surgical suites often lacked monitors, IV machines and standard operating room equipment. The shortage of modern medical equipment puts the Iraqi doctors at a significant disadvantage, according to Shen.

“Once they get this technology, then they need the knowledge to operate the technology,” added Shen. The partnership will help the Iraqis learn how to acquire and operate new medical equipment.

On average, the approximately 25 doctors at Haditha Hospital see about 600 patients a day. The doctors are supported by just five nurses, but a nearby nursing school established in 2007 should help improve the deficit of qualified nurses, according to Shen. The school is the first nursing school in Haditha and provides a three-year training program. Two classes of Iraqi women have enrolled at the school since its doors opened, meaning the hospital should have a fresh crop of 46 qualified nurses by early 2010.

“The Iraqi doctors are well-educated and motivated to provide the best care for their patients and to rebuild their healthcare system,” said Shen.
From Shen’s perspective, U.S. personnel participating in the partnership will also benefit as they learn about the Iraqi healthcare system and contribute to strong, friendly relationships between the two countries.

Shen’s team would like to formalize the partnership within the next few weeks and ensure that it is a program that will continue as U.S. units rotate in and out of the combat support hospital aboard Al Asad Air Base. They’d also like to see the benefits of the program filter out to other Iraqi medical facilities in the region.

New York's 2/25 attacks Shadow Range

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – Activated reserve Marines from the Garden City, New York-based Fox Co., 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) tackled the challenges of combined-arms training here Oct. 20 – 25. The Marines were the first to train at the recently completed training facility known as Shadow Range.

As the role of Marines deployed to Anbar continues to shift to advising Iraqi security forces, the facility affords troops a means of maintaining combined-arms capabilities while supporting over-watch missions in the region.

Fox Co. practiced combat scenarios that challenged their ability to communicate and move under fire. Simulated enemies fired at the Marines from trenches. Marines dashed to covered positions and practiced establishing mortar firing points. Squad leaders barked orders into radio handsets setting teams of Marines in motion on the training range.

The company concluded their training with a live-fire assault course in which the Marines put their refreshed combat skills to the test. Squads moved through the course employing a variety of weapons – mortars, rocket launchers, machine guns and their service rifles. During the movement, they engaged a simulated enemy hidden in the desert hills.

“The company hasn’t had the opportunity to do thorough refresher training,” said Maj. Tom Armas, the company’s commanding officer.

“Now that we have the range, we have the ability to get the Marine skills back up to the level they were when they departed from the states.”

The exercises provided the unit an ideal opportunity to refresh ground combat skills and afforded instructors at the range an opportunity to evaluate the new facility and their curriculum.

“The range is still in testing phase right now,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Stuart White, gunner, Advanced Infantry Training Center, Multi National Forces-West. “After the first group goes through, the instructors will look at the reports and make adjustments to the range to get the most out of the training.”

During their six-month deployment, the unit will continue to rotate Marines through combined-arms training at Shadow Range. Marines who have completed the training will return about once a week to maintain their combat skills.