Navy corpsmen envision new clinic
Submitted by: 3d Marine Aircraft Wing
Story Identification Number: 200432855235
Story by Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III

AL ASAD, Iraq(March 28, 2004) -- The vision of war and the casualties that occur in combat have been fluttering through the minds of some Marines and Sailors since arriving in Iraq more than one month ago.

"The first echelon of care the Marines and Sailors were receiving was over the counter medication," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Santiago Chavez, independent duty corpsman, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273. "The patients were giving corpsmen their symptoms and the patient was given medication. We need this facility to prevent the mismanagement of care and to ensure nobody is misdiagnosed."

Chavez, a 35-year-old Las Cruces, N.M., native is a 17-year veteran of the Navy and served in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation Iraqi Freedom last year.

"We have 14 tasks as an MWSS," he said. "One of those is medical care for all personnel on the air base. We have been ready to treat the patients since day one of opening the medical tent."

Using scrap wood and tools brought to Iraq in their sea bags, the Sailors in the clinic molded the facility from an empty tent into a fully functioning medical clinic.

"When we first got here we were using ponchos tied to strings as temporary patient rooms," said Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph L. Lombardo, a 26-year-old Bayshore, N.Y., native. "The permanent rooms we have now will afford more privacy and patient confidentiality. They will offer more function ability for the corpsmen and the patients."

Acting as the lead petty officer for the tent city aid station, Lombardo also pioneered the construction of the patient rooms.

"The corpsmen take pride in knowing they built these rooms from the ground up, using bare minimum equipment," he said. "It really boosted their morale doing this with their bare hands and seeing a finished product."

Another corpsmen with MWSS-273, Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin D. Blowers, a Wheeling, W.V., native, feels having more space to care for patients and the equipment to do it is essential for mission accomplishment.

"The chief told us what his vision of the clinic was and we just jumped on it," he said. "I know this is something nice to offer our patients."

From the outside, the facility looks like a normal general purpose tent, but the inside houses three patient rooms and nearly one dozen corpsmen ready and willing to help anyone that is injured.

"From inside this tent, we can perform minor surgery, wound closure and care, first response emergency trauma and routine sick call," said Chavez. "We have pharmacy capabilities; the only thing we do not have is narcotics."

Chavez added that although it is not what he envisions a proper medical clinic to be, it will serve its purpose and serve it well.

Lombardo recognizes the importance of teamwork in the environment the units are in.

"This was a combined effort of all the MWSS corpsmen," he said. "It only took the docs four days to complete the patient treatment areas of the tent and this is because they recognized the need for medical attention."

For Blowers, this is something he takes great pride in.

"This clinic shows that we are going to be able to provide an excellent standard of care in an other than standard environment," he said. "I am glad that I played my part in building this place from the ground up."

Navy Chief Petty Officer Santiago Chavez, independent duty corpsman, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 and Las Cruces, N.M., native, puts up a half-completed sign for the tent city medical clinic March 27. The sign will show Marines and Sailors where medical treatment can be received in the event of an emergency or during routine sick call. The 35-year-old IDC is a 17-year veteran of the Navy and participated in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation Iraqi Freedom last year. Photo by: Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III