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02-25-03, 07:25 AM
Navy helped doctor grow up
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part story dealing with health issues for area Marines and sailors now at Camp Fox. Part two deals with some of the medical concerns at the camp. An archive of Peter Williams’ stories from Kuwait is available on the Web at jdnews.com/dispatches.

CAMP FOX, Kuwait — They call him Doogie.

There’s a good reason. At the age of 24, Matthew Carlberg had a wife, kids and a medical degree. What he didn’t have was a focus.

Now at age 38 he’s a commander in the U.S. Navy and the 2nd Force Service Support Group’s resident surgeon. He advises Brig. Gen. Michael R. Lehnert on medical issues dealing with his Marines and sailors.

Carlberg said he joined the military 13 years ago even though he was already a licensed physician because he didn’t know what he wanted to do.

“I quite frankly joined the United States military to be an operational physician, and like the docs who interviewed me for medical school said, I needed to grow up a bit,” he said. “So I joined the military to grow up a little bit and it’s been excellent for me in that and many other regards.”

His nickname came when he was in medical school in New Mexico. “Doogie Howser, M.D.” was a TV program about a child genius who went through medical school and became a doctor while still in his teens.

“One reason I got the name is I obviously look like I am about 12-years-old,” he said.

Carlberg calls Texas home, but has a lot of family and ties to New Mexico. He reported to Camp Lejeune late last year and will be there at least another 2 ??ars.

“I have three girls, one is a junior, and one is in eighth grade and one in seventh grade. If we could stay in North Carolina until we can get them out of high school that would be great.”

Carlberg admits he’s “gone green” a term the Navy uses for medical personnel who find they like life among Marines perhaps more than among sailors.

“I enjoy the U.S. Navy and being affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps. It’s right up there with marrying my wife Kyrstinn and my children’s births in terms of important things that have happened in my life.

“My Navy brethren think it’s a zero-sum game. They think that if I love the Marine Corps I have to hate the Navy. That’s not true. I love the United States Navy as well. But as folks in North Carolina are aware, if you let somebody else feed your dog long enough then pretty soon he ain’t your dog.

“Any chest candy, any ribbons on my chest that are of any consequence, I’ve gotten because Marine Corps officers have taken a personal interest in me. Unfortunately that’s not the rule in the United States military of the United States Naval Service. But the Marines have taken good care of me, and I feel obligated to take good care of the Marines.”

Carlberg is easy to spot at Camp Fox. He carries a cane made of black thorn from the British isles. It was gift from his wife at Christmas and he uses it to make a point.

Finding his focus isn’t a problem anymore. Carlberg knows that he enjoys being a general practitioner.

“I have matured,” he said. “The military showed me I wanted to be a family physician, and that I am a generalist, not a specialist. I like taking care of everyday people with routine problems. I have to admit that scientifically I am fascinated by weird diseases, I like taking care of everyday folks.”

Peter Williams is on assignment in Kuwait for The Daily News and Freedom ENC. He is editor of The Liberty, a Jacksonville-based weekly newspaper that covers military life in the area. Readers who have a question about life in Kuwait can post it to editor@jdnews.com.



Part two tomorrow.........

02-26-03, 07:04 AM
Some enemies can't be seen
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second story in a two-part series on health issues for Camp Lejeune troops stationed at Camp Fox. An archive of Peter Williams’ stories from Kuwait is available on the Web at jdnews.com/dispatches.

CAMP FOX, Kuwait — Bullets and bombs aren’t the only enemies of troops in the field.

Germs and bacteria can be just as dangerous and can strike from within the camp and spread.

That’s why Navy Cmdr. Matthew Carlberg is at Camp Fox. He’s the medical adviser to Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert, the commanding officer of 2nd Force Service Support Group from Camp Lejeune.

Carlberg described his role in advising Lehnert as that of a lawyer. He answers general medical questions that target the health of his Marines.

“The United States Marine Corps is very very interested in taking care of the Marines,” He said. “It’s one of the things that make the Marines a more elite service.”

The medical personnel at Camp Fox can offer the type of help typically found at a battalion aide station, but a higher level of care is close by.

“Consider it this way. We build the ladder, and we carry the Marine up that letter as far as they need to go to get the care he or she needs,” Carlberg said. “If a Marine gets seriously injured, we will be able to deliver them the care they need in a relatively short time.”

Carlberg’s major issue is the prevention of disease, not the treatment of it afterward.

“The commanding general is very big on prevention, and that’s refreshing to me as a physician,” he said. “At the risk of offending my medical brethren back home, the three biggest strides forward in the last 250 years in terms of health are clean water, clean food and vaccinations.

In a way, the Marines and sailors brought their own brand of medical problem with them. Before boarding the planes in North Carolina, they were given a smallpox shot. They carry the live virus and can spread it by accident.

“The first thing to take into consideration with smallpox is you have to determine if the threat is real. Our chain of command feels the threat is valid enough to use the vaccine. We received orders about six weeks ago to begin the smallpox vaccine, and it was provided to us in relatively short order,” Carlberg said.

Marines and sailors were screened first to weed out those who might have an adverse reaction, but most got the shot within an hour of boarding the plane at Cherry Point Air Station.

“The vaccine is safe, but it’s a little bit more risky than some of the other vaccines we give, so we’re watching it a little bit more closely,”_ said Carlberg, a Texas native born in Dallas.

So far, Carlberg said there have been no serious problems related to the vaccinations, but health officials aren’t out of the caution period.

“Still, it is a live virus and it can be transmitted to other sites on the same individual or, more importantly, to other individuals who may have some relative complications with the vaccine and that would make it slightly more risky for them,” he said. “The risk ratchets up a little bit, which is why we’ve been pretty meticulous about it, or as meticulous as you can be in a field environment with 4,000 kids under the age of 20.”

Within a few weeks, the smallpox issues should pass, but Carlberg said there are other things to monitor.

“I’m concerned about food and water-borne illnesses, and I’m concerned about what physicians refer to as vector-borne illnesses — things we can get from critters and skeeters and stuff like that,” he said.

“We are living in an environment out in the desert, and we are not able to take the precautions we would in garrison or at home. So we have to be more meticulous about bathing and hand washing and making sure we don’t eat inside our tents so as to attract rodents who in turn bring fleas.”

The troops drink bottled water shipped in from other countries, and they shower in water treated in Kuwait.

“The (bathing) water is supposed to be potable water, but when we inspected it, the chlorination levels were not real consistent, and that’s OK. The water we’re contracting for is not treated to the same standard that the water in Jacksonville is,” He said. “It’s not our intent that they should be drinking water out of the shower, anyhow. We’re providing them bottled water, and we’re working on the chlorination issue. But it’s generally safe for bathing and tooth brushing and stuff like that.”

Something that does concern Carlberg is that meals are provided by a civilian contractor in Kuwait.

“My personal opinion is I am happier when Marines are guarding our gates and I’m happier when I know a United States Marine is preparing my chow, because I know that Marine has a more senior Marine hovering over them and making sure they do things the right way.

“Contract chow as a little bit disconcerting at first, but U.S. Army vets and preventative medicine techs are regularly inspecting the contractor and we’re inspecting the food when it arrives. We’ve got our food service personnel bird-dogging the contract personnel to make sure they maintain appropriate temperatures and present the food in a hygienic and palatable manner. So far, so good, but we’re keeping after them and the chow is pretty good.”