Mortar Attack on the Fallujah Police; the PTT Medics
FALLUJAH, IRAQ: Fallujah continues to remain a dangerous place for the U.S. military, Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police. Insurgents lobbed three 120 millimeter mortars inside the Fallujah Government Center this afternoon. One of the rounds landed on a HESCO barrier – the cloth and mess containers filled with dirt. The other struck pay dirt and hit the wall of a Fallujah Police sleeping quarters.
Three police officers were wounded. One suffered a leg wound from shrapnel and a concussion, another bruised ribs, and the third broken ribs. The policemen were immediately taken to the Joint Command Center, where the Police Transition Team coordinates with the Iraqi Army, Fallujah Police and the Highway Patrol. The Marine of Charlie Company, 1/24 Marines sent over a squad to support the JCC.
I was with the Military Transition Team of 3rd Recon during the attack at the other side of the base. Major David McCombs, the commanding officer of the MTT, immediately dispatched a medic along with two artillery sergeants, to assist with the wounded and attempt to determine the firing point of the mortars. When we arrived at the scene of the attack, the police were already triaged by Navy Corpsman Jerad Jurgensmier (HN), and prepped to head to a hospital.
Navy Corpsman are attached to Marine units to provide medical care for the Marines. Here with the Police Transition Team, the corpsmen are perhaps the most important member of the team. The corpsmen not only treat the Marines, but are the primary medical caregivers of the Iraqi police. “When it comes to hearts and minds, the corpsman are it,” said Major Brian Lippo, the commanding officer of the Fallujah PTT. “This is where we shine. They show the police and Iraqi people (that) we are here to help.”
There are two corpsmen attached to the Fallujah PTT: ‘Doc J’ Jurgensmier and HM3 Doc Joshua Watson, or ‘Scuba Steve.’ “Every policeman knows Doc J and Doc Watson,” said Caption Tad Scott, the executive officer of the Fallujah PTT.
The Fallujah Police not only know them, but they listen. This morning, Doc J addressed the police at morning formation and implored the police to wear their helmets and body armor. He held up a police vest that had been hit with a bullet and explained how it save the officer’s life. When he made these request individually in the past, the officers starting wearing their vests.
The corpsmen are also performing tasks far beyond their job descriptions as the first line of care for the PTT. Since there are no doctors out here in Fallajuh – the nearest Coalition doctor is at Camp Fallujah Surgical – the corpsmen often perform the tasks of doctors. I witnessed Doc J pack and unpack the facial wound of a policeman who took a bullet to the face. The bullet entered one side of his face, through his sinuses and out the other side. Just this week, he removed sutures and stitches from a severe stomach wound of another Iraqi policeman.
Medical treatment often does more than just win hearts and minds. “When you help them with injuries, they often feel obligated to return the favor,” said Doc J. The policemen often return with information on insurgents that they’ve held back out of fear for their safety.
Whenever Major Lippo travels, he takes a medic with him. This evening, we visited the Highway Patrol station on the outskirts of Fallujah. Although the Highway Patrol is administered by the Ramadi police district, there is much animosity and distrust between the departments and communication is poor to non-existent. Both complain the other departments are “muj’d up” or filled with insurgents – the mujahideen. The resulting jockeying is just one of many challenges and concerns that one needs to keep in mind out here.
After Major Lippo diplomatically castigated the Highway Police for failing to send a representative to the meetings at the Joint Command Center, he offered up Doc J to treat any police that had problems. The police invariably have some real or imagined illness. A line formed, and Doc J dispensed medicine for various aliments and won over new friends in the process.
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