HAMADIYAH, Iraq – -- Navy corpsman Jason Strejcek is about to complete his second deployment to Iraq. The 27-year-old, former high school quarterback, from Brook Park, Ohio, dreams of one day becoming a firefighter. These noble character traits have led him halfway across the globe, to a country threatened by extremist, all in an effort to treat the injured and rally round his country in time of war.
The Iraqi War has had a deep impact on Strejcek’s hometown of Brook Park. With a Marine Corps Reserve Center nearby, the city has seen its share of citizenry deploy to Iraq. In August of 2005, the area was dealt a severe blow when several Marines died during combat operations in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.
Known by everyone simply as Doc, Strejcek is part of a three-man Military Transition Team living alongside Iraqi soldiers of Company 4, 3rd Battalion, 1st Iraqi Regiment, 7th Iraqi Army Division. Strejcek lives in the middle-of-nowhere, in what used to be an area hospital now is a make-shift operation post known as Strong Point 1, east of Ramadi. Conditions inside the crumbling shelter are meager and medical supplies are sparse, but Strejcek gets by on wit and training.
Along a section of the Euphrates River, near Hamadiyah, Strejcek saves lives, treats wounded and advises Iraqi soldiers about medical care. He is more than an asset to U.S. Marines and soldiers; he provides medical care for Iraqi soldiers, Iraqi police and villagers who are commonly attacked by terrorists.
“In some cases there isn’t much I can do,” he said. “I deal with each situation as it arises and do the best I can. Sometimes it’s hard, but I deal with it.”
Strejcek routinely ventures into the community to check on civilians. Good news travels fast. Within an hour, the entire village is aware of his presence. Parents bring their small children and elders complain of body aches. Although he has not finished his first enlistment, the young petty officer has most likely seen and heard it all.
“A woman brought me her deaf son,” he said. “She wanted me to fix him. I had to explain that I wasn’t a surgeon and there was little I could do.”
In many cases, he can help.
On Feb. 17, three mortars fell on the quiet village. Within minutes, Strejcek was overcome by wounded, screaming civilians and their loved ones. He quickly tasked Iraqi medical soldiers, whom he had been training, to treat the less severely wounded. Meanwhile, he used gauze and a pressure dressing to keep a young woman from bleeding to death. A piece of shrapnel tore through her right arm, slicing an artery. She lost a lot of blood, but not her life.
In the same attack a 5-year-old boy was badly wounded. He received multiple shrapnel wounds to his lower legs and head. Both eardrums were blown out and his anus and scrotum were eviscerated, exposing intestines.
Strejcek quickly realized he was in dire shape, but the child’s size kept Strejeck from using morphine or other pain medication.
He immediately bandaged and immobilized the fragile, wounded legs. Then, Strejcek soaked an abdominal pad with sterile water and wrapped the scrotum and anus to prevent infection. He used another bandage to control the bleeding of the head.
Strejcek insisted he be a part of the convoy that escorted the wounded to Charlie Medical Center in Ramadi. He stayed by the boy’s side for an additional two hours until he was flown to Balad for further treatment. All seven wounded lived.
Strejcek makes frequent house calls to check on the victims of the attack. He said all are doing well and in are good spirits.
“Getting Doc out there, with medical supplies, gets a lot of people on our side,” said Strejcek’s teammate, 1st Lt. Daniel Singer, Company 4 advisor. “There is a lot of violence in this area still and those are the times when we need Doc.”
Iraqi soldiers notice the care Strejcek provides the civilians and injured servicemembers. They are quick to point out his significance to their fight against the terrorist.
“Doctor is a good man,” said Private Hossean Joad Brahem, an infantryman with Company 4. “He helps us too much and the people here. He make everyone feel better.”
Strejcek does more than treat the sick and stop the bleeding; he is proficient with his rifle and communication skills and advises Iraqis in the language of medicine and hygiene.
“Doc wears many different hats,” said Singer. “He not only looks after us, but he trains some of the Iraqis in field first aid. He’s a very valuable member of this team.”
Strejcek is not confined to the bedside. He often accompanies the Marines and soldiers on the battlefield. Armed with a rifle and sidearm, Strejcek carries a complete combat load in addition to his medical pack. His load is heavy, but this is why he joined.
“Besides being at home with my parents, or with my girl Kristin, there is no place I’d rather be,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to help people and that’s what I get to do here. This is my calling.”
As of mid-March, Strejcek has treated more than 25 wounded resulting from acts of terror. All of the victims are grateful for people like Doc Strejcek, who sacrifice their young lives for the care of strangers in a foreign land. Strejcek will be home this summer, taking with him memories of Strong Point 1 and the people he helped save.