National Guard medics care for local national workers

Story and photos by Spc. Michael V. Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Part of a medic’s mission is to provide aid to anyone who needs it, in any situation.

Medics with the 547th Transportation Company, Washington, D.C., National Guard, treat Iraqi Department of Public Works employees every Monday and Wednesday morning at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

“The reason we treat the (Iraqi workers) is because if they take time off to go to the (Troop Medical Clinic) or the hospital, they lose an entire day of pay,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Robinson, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the 547th Trans. Co.’s medic team. “It’s good for us to go and help them out so they won’t lose any time.”

The medics treat local nationals for simple problems such as cuts and bruises, stomach aches or headaches, said Robinson, a Washington native. These are minor problems that can be solved without going to the hospital or TMC anyway, he said.

Robinson said the medics stay on site from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. to provide primary medical care for Iraqi workers before they have to go to work. In that hour, the medics on duty can treat up to roughly 50 patients, depending on the nature of the injury or symptoms, he said.

Medics on site can only treat on a first-aid level. If a local national shows signs of a fever, infection or a serious injury, they are taken to a higher-level medical facility, he said.

The DPW employs Iraqi citizens from Bakr Village, said Staff Sgt. Illya Edwards, NCOIC of escorting DPW workers. They do the manual labor on base, and although safeguards exist, sometimes accidents happen on the job, she said.

Most of the workers support themselves and their families with the money they make, he said. Losing one day of work due to an illness or injury that could have been treated is money lost, he said.

Robinson said the local nationals show an appreciation for the medical treatment. It allows them to stay at a work ready status, he said.