KAALAPARA, Bangladesh --
Two medical team from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Tarawa Expeditionary Strike Goup 3 provided basic medical treatment to hundreds of Bangladeshis during a Humanitarian Assistance Operation here Dec 4.
The humanitarian assistance was requested by the Bangladeshi government and is part of ongoing relief efforts currently underway after Tropical Cyclone Sidr struck their southern coast Nov. 15. The cyclone killed more than 3,000 people and left several hundred thousand homeless. The Department of Defense effort is part of a larger United States response coordinated by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development.
Early this morning, two medical teams from the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1) boarded two CH-53E "Super Stallion" helicopters and flew to the fishing village of Kaalapara and to the village of Dublar-char, where crowds of Bangladeshis were waiting for them to arrive. The assistance was coordinated between U.S. military medical teams and doctors from the Bangladeshi government’s Army Medical Corps.
After landing in Kaalapara on a grassy area nestled between a river and a small dirt road, the team was quickly transported to the local medical facility, a two-story, sparse cement structure in the middle of the village. When they arrived, there was a line of men, women, children and elderly waiting for them. Within minutes, they offloaded their gear and medicine, set up shop and quickly went to work. They overcame the language barrier with the help of recent medical school interns who served as interpreters.
“We saw patients with a wide range of ailments,” said Navy LT. Jackie Jensen, a family physician from Fleet Surgical Team 3 temporarily attached to the Tarawa. “Many adults complained about aches and pains, skin problems and bronchitis. In children, we saw a lot of upper respiratory infections, ear infections and diarrhea.”
According to Jensen, some of her patients arrived with treatment records for injuries or illnesses and wanted a second opinion. On several occasions, members of the team reviewed their patient’s treatment record and found that more often than not, the patients had been given good medical advice. After hearing this, the patients left with a smile on their face and a little piece of mind, she said.
The medical team also talked about the importance of good hygiene and how it could prevent diseases and generally allow the local citizens to maintain better health.
According to Maj. Rahman Moshiur, family physician, Bangladesh Army Medical Corps, most of their problems are caused by their lack of information and general health knowledge. This basic hygiene information will have a positive effect on their lives, he said.
Although the medical team had very limited medical resources at their disposal, “we treated a lot of people,” said HM1 Sean P. Overlie, independent duty corpsman, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 11th MEU.
“I just wish we had more medical supplies and that we could do more,” said HM1 (FMF) Christopher L. Kline, jump platoon corpsman, BLT 1/5. Despite our limited resources, “I think the operation was a complete success. I think we made a difference in their lives.”
Moshiur agreed and added that the teamwork between the Bangladesh government and the U.S. military was the reason for the operation’s success. “If we work together and share our experiences, we can make things better.”