AL ASAD, Iraq -- The sailors in the forward deployed Preventive Medicine unit here aren’t the typical medical team found in a combat environment. While most people hear about Navy corpsmen and how they take care of the wounded and other patients, these sailors are here to prevent service members in Iraq from becoming patients.
A multidisciplinary public health team, this unit specializes on microbiology, environmental health, entomology, preventive medicine and occupational health.
Utilizing the air mobility provided by the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), members of this specialized team travel to forward operating bases in the country to evaluate living conditions, collect soil, air and water samples to perform risk assessments; they evaluate environmental conditions that could present a problem to service members in Iraq.
They’re also responsible for pest and disease control, identifying and disposing of whatever hazardous materials may be found aboard a military installation (working closely with the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office), and helping with operational risk assessments in case of a nuclear, biological, chemical attack.
According to Lt. Cmdr. Doug Putthoff, industrial hygienist and assistant officer-in-charge, from Belton, Miss., “We are trying to prevent illnesses and we’re documenting a lot of the information here so that maybe 10 years from now we can help provide answers.”
Lt. Steve Lizewski, microbiologist, said the unit has the best laboratory in Iraq set up to find sources of disease outbreaks. Lizewski, a native of Reading, Pa., said they are mostly finding diarrheal diseases, which he said are a major problem during deployments.
Another problem is service members playing with the snakes, scorpions and other critters in the region. Lt. Jennifer Remmers, an entomologist from Burlington, Iowa, educates as many people as possible on some of the diseases bugs and animals can spread and teaches ways for those in Iraq to keep themselves from being infected.
“Anything with two or more legs I deal with,” she said.
According to Remmers, civilians who provide a broad range of services to the military in Iraq, are responsible for eliminating pests in Al Asad. Remmers assists the contractors and fills in the gaps on whatever they can’t do.
“Also, being in the military, I have a better chance to reach the people here and educate them,” said Remmers.
The unit is originally based at Naval Air Station, San Diego, and though they might not be the ones in the battlefield helping out the wounded warfighters, their hard work behind the scenes is helping service members here stay healthy and ready to fight.
- For more information about the sailors reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org -