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Corpsmen lend helping hand

By Lance Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr. | | March 9, 2004

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During a recent operation corpsmen from 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines conducted a medical civil affairs program here March 7 and 8.

During the two-day MedCap, a Navy lieutenant and four enlisted corpsmen treated about 160 patients at a local hospital, according the Lt. Kenny Uy, assistant battalion surgeon.

He said the sailors saw Afghan patients with ailments ranging from coughs and colds to worms and nutritional deficiencies.

Patients also sought care for other ailments, including arthritis and blindness.

While e supplies and time for the MedCap were limited, the “devil docs” helped as many people as they could, continuing the humanitarian assistant efforts of coalition forces in the area.

“There is only so much we can do,” the Norfolk, Va., native said. “We do what we can, but sometimes we have to refer patients back to local hospitals.”

Most of the medication and other supplies for the exercise were donated, Uy said.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Axel Narvaez said the exercise “was a great opportunity to help people, especially the children. They were very happy we were helping them.”

“It’s a great feeling,” the Puerto Rico native added. “These people have been neglected. Now we can help them out.”

Narvaez said this was his third MedCap since he joined the battalion after serving a two-year tour as a corpsman at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.

Uy has been involved in other MedCaps in Afghanistan.

“There are always mixed feelings,” Uy said. “There’s the satisfaction of doing something for people who have so little, but there’s always the realization that when we leave there is little medical help for these people. It’s gratifying work, but it’s short-term gratification.”

The corpsmen said both Marines and interpreters were valuable assets and made the operation possible.

“The Marines were there to provide security and assist with crowd control,” Uy said. He added, “the villagers were typically very friendly and interacted with the Marines on the street.”

Large groups of local children gathered to see the Americans as well.

The interpreters, or “terps,” also assisted the sailors in accomplishing their mission by translating the medical symptoms the Afghans are experiencing.

“The terps are crucial,” Uy said. “We wouldn’t be able to treat the local population without them.”

Narvaez said he has learned a lot from the interpreters, including some Pashtun words for simple illnesses. “I also read the patients’ body language and expressions,” he said. “But the terps definitely speed up the process.”

Uy said he was very pleased with the MedCap.

“The corpsmen did outstanding. This was a great experience for these guys.”

He said the locals were very happy to have the Americans there to help them.

“The local doctors were very receptive to the idea of working with us. They really appreciated the medicines and supplies we brought.”

Pleased with the operation, the “devil docs” are hoping another opportunity to continue the coalition’s humanitarian efforts comes their way.

“I was happy the battalion was able to help people this way. It’s another dimension we have in the battalion; we’re not just patrols and bullets. It’s humanitarian assistance,” Uy said.

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