15th MEU News

Maritime Special Purpose Force performs 'humanitarian raid'

19 Apr 2003 | Cpl. Anthony R. Blanco 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Marines and Sailors of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) retrieved 10 wounded Iraqis from a hospital during what has been dubbed a "humanitarian raid" April 9.

The Iraqis were retrieved because they were not receiving adequate medical care from injuries sustained during the recent fighting in the city. After the main firefights shifted from the boarder into the cities, many Iraqi citizens became victims of combat injuries.

Shortly after the 15th MEU (SOC) arrived here, they began performing a variety of civil affairs and security missions before transitioning into Phase 4 operations. During a recent security patrol, a group of enemy forces engaged Marines and Sailors of the 15th MEU (SOC) and crossfire from that engagement injured Iraqi citizens.

Local tribal leaders contacted the 15th MEU (SOC) and said that people injured during that conflict were taken to a local hospital that was not providing adequate medical care, according to Maj. James B. Higgins, 35, a New Orleans native and the intelligence officer for the15th MEU (SOC).

The nighttime mission was unique because it was the first time during the war Marines and Sailors from the Force Reconnaissance Detachment and a medical team of doctors and corpsman teamed up for an MSPF mission.  The only difference from the normal MSPF raids was that this was intended to help people rather than destroy enemy troops or gather intelligence. 

"This was a good way to improve community relations and show the people that we do, and want to help them," Higgins said.

Arriving at the site, Marines quickly rushed to the hospital to provide security for the medical teams waiting outside with stretchers in hand.  After force gave the OK to enter the building, corpsmen and doctors ran inside to search for people needing the most urgent medical care. Injuries included bone fractures, burns and gunshot wounds.

"You could tell that they were appreciative," said Navy Lt. Sean P. Stroup, 27, a San Jose, Calif., native, 15th MEU (SOC) surgeon. "Especially the people needing surgery and those who were in a lot of pain."

Unlike an American hospital where everything is sparkling white, walking through the Iraqi hospital was like "looking through a kaleidoscope" because the number of different colors medical teams passed by was never ending, according to Stroup.

Armed with a 9mm pistol in one hand and a stretcher in the other, Sailors working with Iraqi doctors and volunteers picked up the casualties and carried them to the ambulance.  Corpsman provided basic medical treatment inside the ambulance as they transported the victims to Tallil Airfield.

Once the teams retrieved their initial eight people, a family of four walked up to the convoy and asked to come along.

"A five-year-old girl, who had a fractured femur, and her family, came to one of the ambulances and asked to be treated as well," Stroup said.  "The mother also had a fracture in her hand and was trying to breast feed her baby boy, so we decided to take them along."

With all the new patients loaded into the ambulances, the MSPF force escorted the convoy to Tallil, where the Iraqis could receive the proper follow on treatment they needed.

Currently the 15th MEU (SOC) is working together with the local hospitals and clinics by supplying them with the medical supplies needed to treat injured people, according Stroup.  In addition to providing medial supplies, "a lot of doctors here have volunteered to work side by side Iraqi doctors at the hospitals," he said.

15th Marine Expeditionary Unit