News: Iraqi hero medic receives medevac training
By Sgt. Neil W. McCabe
17th Fires Brigade PAO
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq — An Iraqi army hero of the March 2008 "Charge of the Knights" battle for Basra joined U.S. Army and Navy trainers for medical evacuation training Feb. 24 at the Contingency Operating Base Basra flight line.
Second Lt. Muhamad Hussam, a medical officer with the Iraqi army's 52nd Brigade, 14th Division, received multiple gunshots wounds while rescuing soldiers during the spring 2008 Battle of Basra, said 2nd Lt. Karim Elyamani, operations officer for the 17th Fires Brigade Surgeon Cell.
Hussam said through Elyamani, an Arabic speaking native of Morocco, that he was wounded while out in the city searching for injured comrades after a bloody engagement with insurgents.
Although many of soldiers died, he was able to load several of the wounded survivors onto his vehicle, which was clearly marked as an ambulance.
As the ambulance headed back to safety, his party was ambushed by members of the Jaysh al-Mahdi militia, who demanded he turn over the injured soldiers to them, he said.
Instead of surrendering the soldiers in his charge, Hussam said he ordered the driver to hit the gas and drive through the ambush. Although his party escaped back to their own lines, he was severely injured in the right leg, arm and side.
That experience gave him a great appreciation for the advantages of helicopter medical evacuation, he said.
Elyamani said Hussam is revered among the other IA soldiers for his courage and determination. Although he walks with a cane, he never shirks from his duties as he awaits his next corrective surgery.
Hussam, who was joined in the medevac training by two other 14th Division medics, Sgt. Maj. Hatef Abas and Master Sgt. Raid Abid Ali Hay, was instrumental in getting this program started, said Capt. Susan M. Mosier, the 17th FiB's surgeon.
"At this stage of the Army's involvement here, education is the only real thing we can provide them. But, it can also be the most beneficial," she said.
One of the medevac instructors, Chief Petty Officer Curtis Trull Jr., 2515th Navy Air Ambulance Detachment hospitalman, welcomed the Iraqis and brought them to the flight line for a tour of the detachment's helicopter, an SH-60 Sea Hawk.
The Navy's aircraft is from the same family as the Army's standard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with modifications, he told them.
Consistent with the rules for medical response aircraft, these helicopters do not have machine guns or other offensive weapons. Rather, the crewmembers carry personal weapons for their patients' and their own self-defense, he explained. The aircraft are also marked with large red crosses.
After learning about the aircraft, including how to approach the aircraft and how to communicate and interact with the aircrew, two of the Iraqis, Abas and Ali Hay, practiced with Elyamani and Mosier on how to use the litter by carrying the interpreter assigned to the class.
Following Trull's instructions, the litter team approached the Sea Hawk from the nine o'clock position, treating the nose as 12 o'clock.
Then, upon his signal to approach, the litter team came up to the aircraft and loaded the litter inside with the patient's feet first and towards the pilots to better facilitate medical attention during the flight.
Sgt. 1st Class Richard Simmons, a trainer with "Team Bandits," the Military Transition Team assigned to the 52nd Bde., said there is already a program at Camp Taji in which IA medics are trained to work with helicopter medical evacuations, and the hope is to bring similar training to Basra.
The medevac training was the capstone to a three-day train-the-trainer course for IA medics and included classroom instruction and practical exercises, he said.
Simmons said that, in his first two tours to Iraq, he served as a medevac flight medic, where he saw first-hand the benefits of training the Iraqi soldiers in medevac procedures.
"On several occasions, we would put down in the desert in the middle of nowhere and Iraqi soldiers we had trained were able to load actual casualties onto our birds," he said.
For Hussam the focus is not on past battles, but on continuing to build up the medical response capabilities of the Iraqi army.
"The training was great and I learned many things I did not know before," he said. "When I get back to my soldiers, I will train them the way I was trained here."