CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq -- As the sun rose over the western desert, Staff Sgt. Zach Sarver’s platoon from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry from the Illinois Army National Guard prepared to move on a mission Jan. 20, 2006 where their rifles would not be their chief weapon.
In addition to the standard combat operations, 2nd Battalion has incorporated humanitarian missions when it can as a way to build and foster relationships with local Iraqis.
Company B planned to work in close cooperation with the battalion’s civil military operations cell to take medical equipment to a local clinic.
Once dawn had broken and the locals were stirring, Staff Sgt. Sarver led his platoon, accompanied by Maj. Mike Ferris, battalion surgeon, and Capt. Rob Davis, battalion civil military operations officer, into the Lake Habbaniyah Tourist Village to deliver a trailer full of medicines, bandages and a new examination table.
Humanitarian relief missions commonly go hand in hand with combat patrols for this battalion which uses them as a means to deter terrorist activities and for its positive influence with the local populace.
The more the Iraqi’s interact with the soldiers on these types of missions, the more that they see that Coalition forces care about them as individuals, said Davis.
“The US military is often the only functional organization in an area,” said Davis, “civilian relief agencies rarely venture into the rural tribal communities and the Iraqi government does not currently have the manpower or the skill sets to address the local needs, so the Army has to fill the void.”
Filling the void is exactly what they want to accomplish although not to a point where they are dependent on Coalition forces, said Davis, who has worked on these types of projects for the last several months.
He has seen firsthand the poverty and lack of basic needs that have affected Iraqis. As the civil military officer, it is his responsibility to interact and come up with viable solutions for the battalion and the local Iraqis.
“People can see concrete proof that the new Iraqi government and the Coalition Forces care about them and want to improve their lives. The people can see that the terrorists only destroy what others are trying to build. They don’t have an alternative positive vision,” said Davis.
For security reasons the patrol did not let the locals know just when to expect their arrival, so the soldiers found themselves knocking on doors to wake the local clinic manager. Through an interpreter, the manager was very appreciative of the supplies and the table.
“The medical examination table is an example of an item we take for granted back in the states. Every doctor's office has one; but, here in small town Iraq, it's an item too expensive for the local clinic,” said Ferris.
As the battalion surgeon, he has participated in many combat patrols to provide impromptu medical check-ups to the local Iraqi towns.
As the patrol departed, the clinic manager gave them another list of urgently needed supplies. Eventually, this list will reach the battalion aid station and the medical personnel will try to assist in their needs.
“It is nice to take a break from tactical operations and do something to help the Iraqis help themselves,” said Sarver.
These types of operations are important in helping to build relationships in the local towns. These soldiers have incorporated the medical and civil military operations in its daily combat patrol missions to much success. On this cold January day, it was no exception.