Tuesday, June 01, 2004

“Sometimes you wonder what they think,” said Maj. Karen Ryan. “Can you imagine rolling in like this to the place where you lived?”...

On Saturday, about 40 U.S. troops brought medicine to this dusty enclave off the beaten path, announced their presence using loudspeakers, then waited. Curious Iraqis peeked out their doors before trickling out to meet the troops in the dusty town square...

“At first no one wanted to come out,” said Sgt. 1st Class Steven Vigil of Pueblo, Colo., and the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, attached to the 39th Brigade Combat Team. “Once we started to bring out the candy, footballs, water and T-shirts, they started coming out of nowhere.”

Dozens of children swarmed the troops as they handed out the free goods. Women were personally invited by the loudspeakers to see “female doctors.” They lined up for help. Old men sought relief for their sore feet and arthritis.

The only people busier than the two physician’s assistants were the two translators as they hurried to translate symptoms and treatments.

On guard was a handful of troops from the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the Iraqi equivalent of the National Guard and Reserves in the United States. The troops wore desert camouflage just like the Americans, but some wore sneakers instead of boots and they joined the convoy in Toyota pickups instead of Humvees.

A few weren’t even old enough to shave. One U.S. soldier said the Iraqis likely weren’t packing very many bullets in their automatic weapons.

“We brought them with us to show it’s not just American soldiers [trying to help],” Vigil said.

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