MYRGEN KECHAH, Afghanistan — Capt. Brad Frey treated old men and babies
Thursday, dispensing cures that were as simple as antibiotics and aspirin.
It's a scene played out all over Afghanistan, Iraq and the many other
countries in which America sends troops. The locations may be different, but
the ailments are the same: minor infections, arthritis, cuts and bruises.
For the 1,200 or so villagers in this small town, about 30 kilometers east of
Kandahar, this visit was a special occasion.
Frey, a physician's assistant with the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd
Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, along with a medic from the Romanian
Army's 280th Infantry Battalion, examined patients on a simple table next to an
earthen wall at the village's community center.
On the other side of the wall, two Army medics and a Navy corpsman — all
three of whom were female — did their same for sick village women.
For many villagers, it was the first medical attention they had received in
"The majority are poor," villager Hagi Mohammed said through an interpreter.
"People here don't have enough money to be seen as a patient in Kandahar."
With his long, white beard and tanned, wrinkled face, Mohammed sat against a
wall watching the men and children receive medical treatment. He said that he's
seen seven years of drought in Myrgen Kechah, 25 years of war, and a lifetime
When asked his age, he paused and responded only that he was born here. His
lifetime isn't measured in years, it's measured in poverty.
But that poverty that isn't unique to Myrgen Kechah, the troops said.
"It's the same everywhere I've been," said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Steven
Hazenberg, a military policeman with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. "I
spent seven months in Kuwait and Iraq ... and it's pretty much the same."
Hazenberg stood on a small hump of beige dirt, providing a loose buffer
between the medical personnel and a few dozen children forming a ring around
the site. Romanian soldiers from the 280th, also based at Kandahar Airfield,
provided the bulk of protection for both medical personnel and the loose
assembly of American Humvees and Romanian BMP armored personnel carriers.
The community center, for the most part, is a few plain buildings surrounded
by an earthen wall. Stopping to talk, Maj. Wes Parker of the 486th Civil
Affairs Battalion is surrounded by a group of kids and men.
"They're mostly receptive and friendly," he said about the villagers he's
seen since arriving in Afghanistan. "They're accepting, as long as we respect
Thirty minutes later, Parker directs a large Army truck to back up to the
front gate of the community center. Boxes of food and crates of tools are
offloaded to a handful of Afghani men, who hustle them into one of the center's
After the supplies had been unloaded, and the medical teams had given out all
their supplies, the three female medics emerged and walked towards their
"We're used to ... treating just females," said Spc. Rhea Sarver of Charlie
Medical, 10th Forward Support Base.
Most days, Sarver works at the "Charlie Med," the base hospital, treating her
"It makes me feel good ... helping the people here," Sarver said as she
climbed into her vehicle. "It's just helping people in general, whether soldier
Slowly, the convoy moved down the dirt track that serves as the town's main
road. They drove past waving kids calling out for handouts. Dozens of earthen
houses with rounded roofs and other abandoned houses that seem to have melted
from years of rainstorms line the roadway. There is no wheat in the nearby
As the convoy curved around a large dirt hill, it entered an emptiness that
typifies the southern Afghanistan countryside. Or southern Iraq. Or, for that
matter, the countryside of the many lands in which American troops operate.
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