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Medical Personnel and Marines Lend a Hand in Senegal

January 1, 2010 at 9:29 AM UTC

Story by Marine 2nd Lt. Nicole Teat, Africa Partnership Station 2010 public affairs

NOTO GOUREY DIAME, Senegal – “Quick – get him inside, he’s bleeding!” With those words, an elderly Senegalese man, standing quietly amongst a pressing throng of villagers, was hurriedly ushered inside the village health post compound. He sat patiently while the large cut above his eye was skillfully cleaned, sutured, and covered with a bandage.

Story by Marine 2nd Lt. Nicole Teat, Africa Partnership Station 2010 public affairs

NOTO GOUREY DIAME, Senegal – “Quick – get him inside, he’s bleeding!” With those words, an elderly Senegalese man, standing quietly amongst a pressing throng of villagers, was hurriedly ushered inside the village health post compound. He sat patiently while the large cut above his eye was skillfully cleaned, sutured, and covered with a bandage.

Work started immediately for members of a medical outreach team for Africa Partnership Station (APS) West and Marines with the Security Cooperation Marine Air Ground Task Force (SC-MAGTF) as they arrived at the village in the early morning to provide medical assistance.

The 16-member team of U.S. military medical and dental professionals, comprised of Navy and Air Force physicians, optometrists, dentists, dental assistants, and general duty corpsmen have treated more than 2,000 patients while working with the local village health post April 15-19.

“Here, they’re practicing a different type of medicine than they ever have before,” said Lt. Cmdr. Karen Corson, medical liaison for APS West. “Due to the fact that we are only here a couple of days, everything we do here is short-term treatment.”

Marines with the SC-MAGTF, who have been participating in military-to-military events with the Senegalese Armed Forces in the nearby city of Thies over the past three weeks, have been sending teams of Marines to help with the medical outreach missions.

“We helped with crowd control,” said Cpl. Kenneth Magobet, a fire team leader with the SC-MAGTF. “It was a good change of pace from being on the range or teaching infantry classes.”

Marines stood guard at the gate of the makeshift medical compound, allowing villagers who had a paper ticket inside on an individual basis according to how fast they could be seen by the physicians and dentists.

“There was one baby that really touched my heart,” said Magobet. “She had scabies all over her face, and her mom didn’t have a paper ticket to get inside. I was able to talk to the doctors and get her inside to get treated. That really meant a lot to me.”

The assistance provided by the Marines and medical personnel goes far beyond providing relief for just their bodily ailments. The display of compassion and care has also touched the lives of the people they treat.

“I’ve been doing this since 2001,” said Corson. “I didn’t realize what an impact I was having on people’s lives until one day I had an African gentleman come up and tell me he remembered me from a previous mission I’d been on. He told me, ‘Because of you, I am a part of the medical community now. We saw the United States truly cared about us.’ It was a very humbling thing to hear from someone.”

After treating all the patients they could for the day, the Marines and medical personnel packed up their medical equipment and prepared to leave the village. Even though they were only in the area for four days, they made a profound difference in the lives of the Senegalese.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What can I do for them today,’” said Corson. “We provide a lot of moral support. That’s where we make our mark.”

APS is a multinational initiative under the auspices of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, designed to work cooperatively with U.S., European and African partners to enhance maritime safety and security on the African continent. It is a concept that provides a unique venue to align maritime engagements by employing a diverse team of maritime professionals in a variety of military capacities and civilian fields such as fisheries management, port security and meteorology.