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Air Force, Army medics provide free care to Iraqis

by Tech. Sgt. Russell Wicke
447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

7/2/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Trust in the good faith of people is fragile and bruised for Iraqi civilians in Baghdad according to Staff Sgt. Kelly Jette, 447th Expeditionary Medical Squadron medic. The very city is being fought for by residents, coalition soldiers, as well as insurgents and foreign terrorists.

But the Airmen from the 447th EMEDS, along with Soldiers from the Civil-Military Operations Center are front-line fighters for the hearts and minds of Iraqis here.

CMOC funds a medical facility here that opens its door to any sick or injured Iraqi and provides free medical service. Airmen from the 447th Air Expeditionary Group medical center volunteer their free time twice a week to supplement the Army's medical care. Others from the 447 AEG volunteer to help by passing out food, clothing and toys.

Army Capt. Sheila Corcoran, 478th Civil Affairs Battalion officer in charge of CMOC, said their clinic opens its doors about three times a week to the people of Iraq. They provide medical service for everything from "headaches to gun-shot wounds," she added. Incidentally the captain said the Airmen are her most favored volunteers.

"The Air Force is fabulous with their help," she said. "They always come here with a lot of energy."

Maj. (Dr.) Andrew Chontos, 447th EMEDS medical doctor, is one of the Air Force's most active volunteers, who gives free time to CMOC every week. He said the volunteer work "adds another dimension to our tour [in Ir aq]." He explained that being able to help the people of Baghdad shows them the Americans not just here to fight off terrorists.

"The people we see at the clinic are very happy to receive care from us," said Major Chontos. "They seem very grateful."

According to Major Chontos, most of the people they see are there for simple ailments which can be solved by simply giving Motrin or Tylenol. Although these are common drugs most Americans take for granted, he said they are hard to come by in Iraq.

Sergeant Jette explained that most Iraqi clinics offer medication that is placebo, having no effect. Most Iraqi civilians in Baghdad commute to a clinic in the city called Medical City. This clinic receives most of its pharmaceutical supplies from Egypt according to Sergeant Jette. She said sometimes the medicine from there is effective, but sometimes it isn't.

Many times, however, Iraqis come to the CMOC clinic for reasons other than medical care. According to Senior Airman Stephanie Scmidt, 447th EMEDS medic, people in the United States, usually family and friends of Airmen, send goods like clothes, food and toys, which expand this humanitarian mission. Airmen from the 447th AEG who aren't part of the medical community, tag on to these missions to pass out the goods that have been sent. Candy is also passed out to children. One Airman from the 447th AEG coordinated with his father to supply nearly 1,000 pounds of pharmaceutical supplies and other goods.

"EMEDS put out this list [of needed supplies], and we tried to fill it," said Senior Airman Jeremiah Cedoz, 447th Civil Engineer Squadron steel structures specialist. His commander, Lt. Col. Michael Nester, said Airman Cedoz extended another four months so he could work with his father and his company in Ohio to bring in more supplies.

"Airman Cedoz is motivated by a simple, honest desire to improve the lives of the Iraqi people," said Colonel Nester. "I was absolutely lifted by Jeremiah's desire to change the lives of the patients seen by the CMOC clinic."

In this way, said Sergeant Jette, Airmen here foster trust of Iraqis which lends to the wider goal of winning the hearts and minds of the people in the country.

But with every endeavor comes a challenge, and according to EMEDS officials, there are two at CMOC: language barrier and limited supply of certain medications. However, Major Chontos said they don't let these things keep them from helping.

"We in the medical community are geared to take care of people," he said. "We get satisfaction from meeting that need."

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