Shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday, there was a desperate wail at the back gate of B Company’s compound in Sadr City. A woman had been badly burned and her relatives were begging for help.
With little in the way of emergency services and travel hampered by blocked streets, nightly curfews and sporadic firefights, a steady trickle of Iraqis has been turning to the American soldiers here for medical care.
Medics who have trained for combat have attended to a seizure victim, an infant brought in by an anxious father and a boy wounded by gunfire. On Thursday, they cared for Samera Tula, who had been seared over much of her body when a propane tank accidentally exploded.
Providing care to Iraqi civilians and Iraqi soldiers “has been the excitement of being here so far,” said Spc. Joshua Bosley, one of the medics here.
Wednesday had been a relatively quiet day at the base for the company, which is part of the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. The American military, which moved into Sadr City to try to stop the rocket attacks on the Green Zone and help the Iraqi government establish order, had organized a several hours-long clinic that was staffed by several Iraqi doctors.
The American medics were available to help in case of an emergency but did not participate. The calculation was that using an all-Iraqi medical staff would build the confidence of Sadr City residents in the Iraqi government.
More than 300 Iraqis showed up for treatment. In many cases, the care consisted of little more than a two-minute consultation and the dispensing of a packet of pills. But the residents in this impoverished warren of the Thawra district were grateful to have received that much.
By mid-afternoon, the clinic was over, the Iraqi doctors were gone and the American medics once again were the only health providers in the neighborhood.
The medics have been working out of a Stryker armored vehicle that is specially configured as an ambulance. The vehicle is equipped with four stretchers, oxygen and medical supplies but no weapon system.