WASHINGTON - Three Iraqi military physical therapists are wrapping up a six-week rotation Feb. 14, with Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The training consisted of classroom lecture, observation and practical application and is the first of its kind for Walter Reed, according to Lt. Col. Shannon Lynch, assistant chief of physical therapy at Walter Reed.
"They are professional, eager and motivated to bring this new knowledge and skills back to their country," Lynch said.
To help with communication, an Iraqi interpreter accompanied the service members to make sure all conversations were not lost in translation.
Iraqi army 2nd Lt. Ali Nsaif said he has benefited from the expertise of the hospital's physical therapists and has learned new exercise techniques he plans to use with his patients in the Iraqi army.
"They [Walter Reed] are focused on the patient and are there through the whole process of recovery," Nsaif said.
Iraqi army 2nd Lt. Thamer Jebur added that he was impressed by the focus on not only the patient's physical well-being, but psychological well-being - a method he is integrating in his own practice in Iraq.
At the end of the rotation, the Iraqi therapists will be assessed on what new skills they've developed and their interaction with each patient.
To prepare, the therapists have been shadowing and assisting with multiple wounded warriors currently undergoing physical therapy at Walter Reed.
While working with the Iraqi physical therapists, 1st Lt. Rahul Harpalani, a recent amputee from 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, said there isn't much difference between training under the Iraqis and U.S. therapists.
Harpalani received his right leg prosthetic only six days prior to his first session with the Iraqi service members.
"This is a partnered fight," Harpalani said. "I'm glad to see both countries taking small steps to build this partnership."
Lynch said sharing knowledge is key, and both parties are learning a lot from each other's knowledge and experience.
Additionally, three other Iraqi medical microbiologists are assisting with scientific research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research at the Forest Glen Annex in Silver Spring, Md.
During their time in Washington, all six Iraqi service members visited with Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, who ate lunch with them and gave a brief tour of the Pentagon Feb. 3.
"We think this is one of the high points of our experiences to see this come together," Schoomaker said. "We've talked about this for many years on our trips to Iraq, and I'm glad you got the chance to visit the Pentagon and to walk around and see this very expensive and very strange five-sided building."
Walter Reed is currently exploring the opportunity to continue this rotational program in the future to establish lasting ties between both countries' physical therapists and scientists, Lynch said.