December 10, 2015 — AL TAQADDUM, Iraq — As the battle for Ramadi and Fallujah continues near Al Taqaddum, Iraq, members of the Iraqi armed forces conduct counterattack missions as part of the efforts to regain control over the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant-occupied cities.
Near the fight, personnel assigned to Task Force Al Taqaddum are standing by to provide medical aid to Iraqi soldiers seriously wounded during these counterattack missions.
The medical personnel are part of advise and assist teams based out of Camp Manion, where coalition personnel have re-established presence for the first time since June 2015.
In addition to TFTQ providing advise and assist support, the task force also contributes to the fight by aiding Iraqi soldiers wounded in action.
Wounded Iraqi soldiers are brought to the gates of Camp Manion, where U.S. Navy corpsmen and Marines with Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, are the first responders to treat their injuries.
Bravo Company Marines provide security for the camp by conducting patrols, standing post and employing a quick reaction force team.
Personnel assigned to the QRF must maintain a high level of readiness, and are capable of responding at a moment’s notice.
As casualties approach the entrance check point of the camp, QRF Marines and corpsmen are called to respond. Personnel quickly move to the entry control point where the Marines immediately set up security, search the vehicle carrying the casualty and the persons in it.
Once the vehicle and personnel have been cleared, corpsmen move into action and start to aid the wounded Iraqi troops.
“The majority of the casualties come from Ramadi,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Charles Dotterrer, the company commander for Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “They are in the front lines in the Ramadi counterattacks, so if something bad happens to them there, they bring them to [Al Taqaddum] for medical care.”
As first responders, the corpsmen assess the patients’ injuries, stabilize the casualties and perform emergency procedures on the spot, if necessary. Based on the corpsman’s assessment, it is determined if a patient will be admitted for further care. That assessment must meet the medical rules of eligibility to determine if the corpsmen are able to provide care. Iraqi soldiers who are in danger of losing their life are seen immediately, where more routine injuries may be referred to local hospitals.
“[The corpsmen] definitely make a difference. They are the first people to see the [patients], they do the triage at the gate and call us back on the radio to report what they injuries are, and how accurate that assessment is allows us to decide whether we can accept them or not,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Christina Hahn, a general surgeon and the officer in charge of the forward surgical team for TFTQ. “[The corpsmen] are very accurate [with their assessments].”
The Marines and sailors of Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, arrived to Camp Manion in early October 2015 and within a 2-month period have treated more than 130 casualties.
“They are doing a phenomenal job, they are getting a lot of good combat triaging experience, and they’re getting a lot of real-world experience with treating casualties,” said Dotterrer. “Very few corpsmen in the Marine Corps are getting this type of real-world experience, and I am very proud of what they are doing.”
Petty Officer 3rd Class Bryan Rileysilva, a hospitalman with Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, said that it is a rewarding feeling to help save somebody’s life by utilizing his training and skills in real life cases.
“Not only are the corpsmen doing assessments, and are incredibly accurate, but they’re also doing a lot of emergency treatment that needs to be done right away,” said Hahn. “Every single second counts, and [the corpsmen] have done life-saving maneuvers right at the gate like needle decompressions … where it’s just a matters of seconds, so what they do is crucial.”
Saving someone’s life has become an everyday occurrence for the corpsmen of Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, and they are happy to see that their efforts matter.
“I look at these Iraqis not just as anybody else because they are fighting for their country, they’re facing the enemy to protect their land and whatever we can do to help out is very rewarding,” said Seaman Apprentice Ryan Spencer-Smith, a hospitalman with Bravo Company, 1st Bn., 7th Marines. “It also helps build our relationship with the Iraqis, and it shows them that we care and that we are trying to help them. I feel good about what we do.”
The patients don’t stay at Camp Manion for a full recovery, once they have been treated by the FST and remain in stable condition, they are transported to hospitals in the region.
The FST sends patients out with a form taped to their chest containing every single detail regarding the casualty. The paper contains information about the injuries the patient sustained, the conditions in which they were when they arrived to Camp Manion, the procedures performed, medicine administered and instructions for follow on treatment.
The corpsmen and Marines of 1st Bn., 7th Marines, continue to aid those in need in contribution to Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, which focuses on defeating ISIL in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.