November 17, 2006

Name: SPC Ian Wolfe
Posting date: 11/17/06
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Email: [email protected]

When we were first told we were going to be conducting first aid classes for the local Iraqi civilians we didn't quite know what to expect. We were not sure what they knew, who would be there, or if they would listen. Our team, Cpt. Monte Haddix from Cheyenne, Wyoming, Staff Sgt.Tracy French from Virginia, Minnesota, and myself, started researching and discussing things we could teach that would benefit the people in this area, which is very rural.
Although most of the local civilians could go to a hospital in An Nasiriyah, a lot of them don't, and they were getting infections and sicknesses that can be prevented by basic first aid techniques. We got our class together and went on our first mission.

Whether we were being naive or hopeful, we had originally expected women to attend. But for the first few classes only men showed up. We wanted to try to create a women's class, so we could at least teach them the first aid information we were teaching the men. After all, the women, we found out, do most of the care. One day we were at the house of a Sheik teaching a class, and another Sheik arrived who was a councilman for the district, so we raised the topic of  teaching the women of the village. This particular Sheik talked in great length about his plans to open a women's center to teach computers, English, and other subjects to women. We couldn't tell whether he was sincere or not, but we jumped at the opportunity to finally interact with the female population, and got to work developing a women's class.

Of course, only females could teach the class, so we enlisted the help of Sgt 1st Class Cassandra Houston, a medic from Charlie Company 134 BSB (Brigade Support Battalion), who is the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge) for our Tactical Operations Center. She and staff Sgt. French decided to take some of what we were teaching the men, such as bleeding control, airway management, and other injury-related issues, and also focus more on care-related issues, such as burns, wound care, fever, hygiene, and illness. They also addressed some female-specific issues such as hygiene, infection, and preventive medicine. In each session they learn different things about what the women do for female-specific health issues, and what kinds of issues they have, and are constantly changing and adapting the classes.

In both men's and women's classes it has been difficult introducing certain topics that we were not sure how to approach. Prevention is very important and not something that is practiced in this culture as much. Every year there are many burn victims, mostly children. Trying to teach simple things like keeping the kids away from fire, and not using scolding water as a form of punishment, is a very tricky task. We don't want to insult them, or tell them they are wrong, but these are important things to help prevent major injuries to themselves and their children. One technique that seems to work well is telling them examples of what we see in America, such as home remedies, infections, and so on, and what we tell our American citizens. This makes it less of an accusation, or not as much like we are telling them that their culture is wrong, and gets through to them at the same time.

It has been very important to tell them we are not here to treat them or replace a doctor, we are teaching them tips and techniques they can use as prevention, what to do in an emergency before you get to a hospital, and when to seek higher medical care. The women's class has become a much talked about program, and been very well received by the community. Hopefully it will help decrease the amount of preventable injuries and illnesses, and improve the stature of women in this society. Both Staff Sgt. French and Sgt 1st Class Houston are involved in healthcare back home. They have brought a great deal of knowledge to the classes not only as healthcare professionals, but as women and mothers, and being able to teach the women's health class has been a highlight of their deployment. They feel that even if they only reach the younger girls, or only a few of the mothers, then it is all worth it.


Keep teaching the children--they are the future. You are doing a wonderful job and I am proud to have you a part of our awesome military. My prayers are with all of you.

This is the sort of help that can be built on regardless of what the future brings. Please tell Cassandra & Tracy that their work will bear fruit, even if they don't see it themselves. Also that I am very proud of them!

We are all proud of you and especially Sgt. Tracy my high school classmate..

Interesting story.. I was stationed with Cassandra down in Ft Polk, LA.. She's a Hell of a soldier!!!!!!

If ya see her tell her Lopez said HI!!!!!

she's my sis (Tracy French) and it's been a long two years. can't wait to see her.
saw a bunch of pics of the people she helps. pride. that describes how i feel about what you all do. big. huge. pride.

Thanks for the information...I bookmarked your site, and I appreciate your time and effort to make your blog a success!

Thanks for the information...I bookmarked your site, and I appreciate your time and effort to make your blog a success!

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