U.S. Forces Renovate Albanian Hospital
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 1996 After visiting a Balkan hospital, three American women turned to DoD for help in improving medical care in Albania, a country hidden for more than 40 years in the darkest shadows of the Iron Curtain.
The womens concerns and connections led to the people of Albania receiving help from the South Carolina National Guard and a combination of active and Reserve personnel from all four services.
In July 1994, Lee Perry, Gail Kruzel and Dede Kern visited a military hospital near Tirana, Albanias capital. Perry is the wife of the secretary of defense; Kruzel is the widow of Joe Kruzel, deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy, who died on a peace mission in Bosnia in August 1995; Kern is the wife of Army Maj. Gen. Paul Kern, senior military assistant to the secretary of defense.
"Because it is a military hospital, they are not eligible for aid from most humanitarian organizations," Perry said. "It was obvious the purpose of having us visit was to solicit assistance in some way." The women described their visit to Kruzels late husband.
The mission of the hospital had changed it is now the national trauma center for half the civilians in the country. "At the time we visited, threequarters of the patients were civilian," Perry said. "We visited the bedsides of many children."
Water of uncertain purity and power supplies were sporadic, the women reported. There were no generators and no air conditioning; with the windows open, flies were everywhere.
"There was no gauze or plaster," said Perry. "Broken bones were wrapped in newspaper and placed between two sticks."
After hearing the womens report, Joe Kruzel turned to the South Carolina National Guard for help. The result: A joint engineering exercise named Uje Kristal ("clear water" in Albanian) was conducted last summer under the Partnership for Peace program. South Carolina is linked to Albania through a state partnership program. Under it, state National Guards partner with comparably sized Central or Eastern European countries.
During four 21day rotations, South Carolina Guardsmen, Naval and Marine reservists, and active duty soldiers and sailors built two wells and installed a water chlorinator, hot water heaters and emergency lighting in several of the hospital units. They also put in an emergency generator, replaced portions of the internal sewage system, repaired drywall in the cardiac facility and built a security fence.
"Uje Kristal is just one example of the strong relationship that has developed between the United States and Albania," Defense Secretary William J. Perry said during a Jan. 10 award ceremony for participants.
The Albanian government named a hospital wing honoring Joe Kruzel; a plaque in the trauma center bears his name.
The mission in Albania was an opportunity to demonstrate military skills in a highprofile humanitarian effort, a reserve component official said.
With the new facilities, the Albanian hospital can be more sanitary, according to South Carolina Guard Capt. Charles Gibson, 108th Public Affairs Detachment. "The backup power supply will save lives. The shouldertoshoulder training provides the skills the Albanians need to duplicate the process themselves."
The joint effort gave the Americans a chance to work together as well as with their Albanian partners, officials said.
"We fight together, so weve got to train together," said Lt. Col. Fred Cale, a Marine reservist. "Every problem we solve involving all key players brings us that much closer to a joint mindset. If we get used to working together, we wont have to keep reinventing the wheel every time we get together."
Units participating in Uje Kristal were the Second Naval Construction Brigade, Little Creek, Va., and Rota, Spain; U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Engineers, Peoria, Ill.; U.S. Marine Corps Security Force, Lexington, Ky., Pittsburgh, Twin Cities, Md., and Dayton, Ohio; and the South Carolina National Guard.