British medics train Iraqis to save lives

First published on the Ministry of Defence website on 2nd Nov 2007.

The first Iraqi soldiers trained up by UK military medics and nurses are ready to apply what they have learned to real-life situations in the field.

The Iraqi soldiers qualified as ‘Platoon medics’ after they received training and equipment from a team from the UK Medical Group, based in Basra. The training now entitles the soldiers to treat their injured comrades and potentially save lives.

Trainees were selected from different Iraqi army units around the country. They will now return to their Platoons with the life-saver qualification and brand new medical kit bags.

Major James Watson from the Royal Army Medical Corps ran the Combat Life Saver course along with Major Hamid Kubar, the Iraqi Army’s regional Senior Medical Officer.

Speaking on behalf of the UK Medical Group at Headquarters Multi-National Division (South East) based in Basra, Major Watson explained the significance of the training:

“The course we have run alongside Major Hamid and his medical team is our first step in the mentoring and training of the Iraqi Army medical units,” he said. “The course, run over three days, has been a great success. Major Hamid’s team have proved that with a little further mentoring, they will soon be able to conduct this course for themselves and provide a sustained capability.”

Major Kubar agreed the course had been a success:

“The soldiers have gained many more medical skills and are very happy with the training. When we cooperate with the British medics, it’s more interesting and valuable for our soldiers than if it is done just by the Iraqi Army. We need more of these courses.”

12 Iraqi soldiers, drawn from units across Iraq, including the Baghdad area, passed the course this week. As well as Major Watson, who is a physio by trade, a total of five UK personnel are involved in the training – two from 34 Field Hospital in York and three from 3 Close Support Medical Regiment based at Topcliffe. In addition to running these courses Major Watson is also in charge of the (considerable) physio department located at the Field Hospital at the Contingency Operating Base in Basra.

The soldiers have gained many more medical skills and are very happy with the training. When we cooperate with the British medics, it’s more interesting and valuable for our soldiers than if it is done just by the Iraqi Army.

One of the Iraqi instructors involved in the course, Murtadha Raheem, is a medical assistant working with the Iraqi Army:

“The training has been very important, and we’ll feel very happy to be able to help our injured colleagues in the future. Working with the British medical forces has been very useful, not only for the training but also for the equipment they have given us. We would like to thank them for this opportunity.”

WO1 Louis Hall added:

“After a slow start, when we gradually built up their trust, they warmed to us and we’ve achieved a huge amount. I’ve really enjoyed doing the course. The Iraqi soldiers can now canulate, perform life-saving procedures and will be an asset to their units.”

In order to make the training consistent across the country, US troops are now teaching the same course and issuing the same equipment in their area of operations.

This latest success by UK troops shows how Iraqi and multi-national forces are working together to improve the training and qualifications of Iraqi soldiers, and they continue to build a professional and credible Army.

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