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Soldiers Visit Orphanage Bearing Gifts, Medical Aid

By Staff Sgt. Susan German, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 15, 2004 – Smiles were plentiful among the group of kids, despite a visit from the doctor.

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A group of kids at the Salhiya Orphanage in the Karkh District of Baghdad enjoy treats brought to them by Soldiers of Task Force 3-8 Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, during a medical humanitarian assistance mission Dec. 9. Photo by Staff Sgt. Susan German, USA
  

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Soldiers from Task Force 3-8 Cavalry were conducting a medical humanitarian assistance mission at the orphanage located in the Salhiya neighborhood of the Karkh District of Baghdad Dec. 9.

The visit allowed medical staff to check on any ill children, as well as provide medical supplies to the staff, Maj. (Dr.) David Harford, the task force surgeon.

During previous missions, conducted quarterly, the medical staff had performed general physical exams on each child. Harford saw about 10 children during his visit.

Harford, a pediatrician with subspecialties in oncology and hematology, said there is a physician assistant who works at the orphanage with access to basic medications for treatment and there are also Iraqi physicians from nearby hospitals who have begun regularly visiting the orphanage.

"They're actually getting much more support now than when we first arrived," Harford said.

The orphanage first came to the attention of the "Bulldogs" of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, as they conducted patrols in the neighborhood. The headmistress asked if some doctors could stop and look at the kids, according to Capt. Alexander Rasmussen, task force civil military operations officer.

The orphanage has been in operation for seven months, Najat Shakir Mahmod, headmistress of the orphanage, said. There are 23 caregivers working two shifts to provide round-the-clock care to the 55 children, including infants, who call the orphanage home.

"We are very thankful to the U.S. Army," Mahmod said. "They are helping us much."

The children were happy to see the soldiers, and several ran up for hugs and hand slaps. The little boys welcomed the extra attention as soldiers rough- housed with them. The troops passed out backpacks and candy, as well as medical supplies.

"I don't think they would have access to all this stuff and it's just a small drop in the bucket," said Master Sgt. Antionne Murray, a medic and the medical platoon sergeant for Headquarters Company. "I think that any little bit helps. We're just trying to do our part to help the community out. As much as we can, we try to come out here and bring them supplies."

Dr. Hussain Al Hilli, the director of the cardio-surgical center of the Ibn Al Bitr Hospital in Baghdad, met with Harford and introduced some of his staff. The center, the only one of its kind in Iraq, according to Al Hilli, deals only with cardiac surgery, for children and adults. About 40 percent of their patients are children.

Iraq needs about 20 centers like the one in Baghdad, for the 60,000 patients throughout Iraq, according to Al Hilli. After coordination with colleagues in Mosul, and training conducted in Baghdad, a new center is scheduled to open in Mosul within a week to handle cardiac-surgical patients from the northern part of Iraq. They also plan to help out at the orphanage.

"We are just making a suggestion to have another visit with more doctors and we will examine every one of these [children]," Al Hilli said. "For anyone we suspect there is something, we will take him to our hospital, so we can do a full examination of him."

Capt. Jeff Kornbluth, acting Company B commander, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, is responsible for the area of operation in which the orphanage is located. He said the normal patrols that run daily like to go to the orphanage, make sure everything is going good and try to help them out with anything they need.

"It's always great to come here, especially with a group of people, and doctors and everything like that to make sure these kids are getting taken care of and they all like to see us, so it makes you feel good to go out and do good things," Kornbluth said.

(Army Staff Sgt. Susan German is assigned to the 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSpc. Robert Espinosa, a driver from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force 3-8 Cavalry of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, plays with one of the children at the Salhiya Orphanage during a medical humanitarian assistance mission Dec. 9. Photo by Staff Sgt. Susan German, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imagePfc. Oscar Buonafina, from Company C, 215th Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, a driver currently tasked as a chaplain's assistant, allows a child at the Salhiya Orphanage to play with his Gameboy during a Task Force 3-8 Cavalry medical humanitarian assistance mission Dec. 9. Photo by Staff Sgt. Susan German, USA  
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