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New Medical Clinic Opens Doors for Camp Striker Troops

By Spc. Kelly McDowell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq, March 24, 2006 – For five months, the wounded and sick soldiers here have been treated in old, deteriorating tents. A sick soldier from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, would have to walk through the mud and gravel only to sit in the entrance of a dark, hot tent and wait on wooden benches to be seen.

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Army Col. Todd Ebel, 2nd Brigade Combat Team commander (left), and Pvt. Lora Ladd and Capt. Shannon Rowe, both of Company C, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, cut a ceremonial ribbon made of gauze and St. Patrick's Day garland at the March 17 opening of the "Strike" Memorial Troops Medical Clinic at Camp Striker, Iraq. Photo by Spc. Kelly McDowell, USA

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This all changed March 17 when a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opened the new "Strike" Memorial Troops Medical Clinic.

Army Col. Todd Ebel, team commander, wanted to provide proper medical care for his soldiers in a sturdy, well-built and clean facility that could offer care in the proper environment he envisioned.

"Frankly, I was discouraged upon my arrival to Camp Striker," the colonel said. "I was looking deep at my role as a commander of a brigade combat team, which I knew would go into the most lethal of all areas in Iraq. I was discouraged that a new facility was not even in the forecast for my soldiers, nor for the soldiers that transit through Camp Striker."

The plan came full circle for Ebel and the medics of Company C, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, when the construction of the new medical facility was completed and the lights were turned on.

The new clinic offers more than adequate space for each section of medical care. There are offices and rooms for examination, physical therapy, pharmacy and dentistry.

"The old location was two tents. Our dentist was actually working in a very crowded corner," said Capt. Shannon Rowe, Company C commander. "Now he actually has an entire room dedicated to dental care, where he can do dental X-rays, which was limited in the old facility."

Through a set of double-wide doors is the large trauma center. In this area, patients requiring trauma care can receive X-rays and be stabilized before being moved smoothly out the back door to be evacuated if necessary.

"We also have a seven-bed patient-hold ward, which can hold up to 15 (patients); our old facility could only hold up to six," Rowe said. "This is important, because we can hold soldiers who have been wounded in combat for up to 72 hours. Keeping them here with the BCT and allowing the leadership to take part in the healing has been extremely beneficial."

In addition to more room for inpatient care, the new clinic also has dedicated rooms for the lab as well as X-ray. "The providers have their own separate area, which helps the medics with patient privacy," Rowe said.

Space is not the only challenge the medics faced in the old facility. The capability to treat certain wounds and illnesses was extremely limited, and the medics had to send soldiers away from Camp Striker for treatment.

"Our patient numbers have gone up 50 percent since we've been in this facility," said Rowe. "We are actually holding more patients here, and we are able to do a lot more on-site care. We could do some limited care in the old tents, but right now we are actually evacuating less people and keeping them here closer to the fight."

This facility is not only a blessing to the soldiers who may need care in the future, but it will benefit the medics who serve or will serve on Camp Striker.

"It was kind of disheartening to be one of the few medical units here that wasn't in a fixed facility," Rowe said. "When we moved over here five months into the deployment, morale skyrocketed."

Each Company C soldier spent countless hours working on the new building. Some soldiers built shelving units for the medical supplies, some set up the offices, and others even helped with the construction just to offer the proper care to their patients.

"It's been hard work," Rowe said. "This has given them a huge sense of purpose and a sense of pride."

(Army Spc. Kelly McDowell is assigned to 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMedical supplies are neatly aligned for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the "Strike" Memorial Troops Medical Center at Camp Striker, Iraq. Photo by Spc. Kelly McDowell, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Tara Cantley, dental assistant, Company C, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, shows Command Sgt. Maj. Dale Christopher, 30th Medical Brigade, the new dental facilities offered in the "Strike" Memorial Troops Medical Facility on Camp Striker, Iraq. Photo by Spc. Kelly McDowell, USA  
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