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Airmen provide humanitarian aid for African Lion

by Tech. Sgt. Susan Stout
944th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/3/2007 - GUELMIM, Morocco (AFNEWS) -- More than 3,700 Moroccans were treated by 37 American military members as part of an April 15 to 30 humanitarian assistance visit to Morocco called African Lion 2007.

Airmen of the 944th Medical Squadron from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and other active duty and Reserve members of sister services participated in the regularly scheduled, combined U.S.-Moroccan military exercise designed to promote improved interoperability.

The team of 37 included members from several specialties including dermatology, optometry, pediatrics, gynecology, internal medicine and dental.

The group visited six sites in six days with each site containing Moroccan patients with various medical needs. The Americans and their Moroccan medical counterparts were able to assist 3,746 patients and provided 5,803 prescriptions and 833 pairs of glasses. 

"I am very proud how our team worked during the visit," said Lt. Col. Patrick Carpenter, the 944th MDS commander. "We were able to provide some medical assistance for people who had been suffering without medical care for more than 10 years. The interaction we had with our Moroccan counterparts was priceless."

The initial challenge of the mission was the language barrier, but it was soon overcome. 

"We don't speak the same language, but we speak the same (medical) language," said Master Sgt. Richard McDowell, the 944th Medical Squadron laboratory NCO in charge. 

In addition to medical care, American medics also brought needed supplies and visited school children. Maj. Madeline Sanchez, the 944th Medical Squadron chief nurse, collected donations of school supplies to take to the villages of Morocco.

On the second day, the set up for medical care was next to a small school. After the patients had been processed, Major Sanchez and the squadron's first sergeant, Master Sgt. Darrin Andsager, walked over with a Moroccan escort to visit the children.

The quiet classroom soon transformed as the eight students stood up and in unison greeted the pair with a welcome song. They immediately returned to their seats and began their class work. After asking where their teacher was, Major Sanchez learned he went to the medical site and was assisting the Americans with translations in the pharmacy.

Sergeant Andsager immediately connected with the children and sat at their desks to see what they were learning. The book was in Arabic and he laughed as he told them he didn't understand. A boy, about 8 years old, pulled out the same book in French. The first sergeant again laughed and said he didn't understand.

Another boy from the desk in front of them passed a French dictionary and as Sergeant Andsager thumbed through the pages he looked up and asked, "How do you say 'barbecue' in French?"

The boy laughed, covered his face, and said, "Barbecue!"

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