PUBLISHED: 5:48 PM on Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Alaska's guardsmen provide practical help to Iraqis

Photo by Christina Holmgren
  Major Joel Gilbert, here in a picture taken before deployment, commander of the Alaska Guardsmen in Iraq.
CAMP VICTORY, Baghdad, Iraq - They've been busy. Very busy. But they've been doing what Alaska's guardsmen - what America's soldiers -Edo best: Helping their neighbors by interacting with the community around them.

"Weve been really busy over here but it's been well worth it and we've had nothing but positive results," said Major Joel Gilbert, commander of Alpha Company, 3-297th Infantry, assigned with the 29th Infantry Brigade in Iraq.

Gilbert recounted several examples of events they've been involved with during the past week.

"During a patrol, one of our Combat Lifesavers saw a child with his arm bandaged up," he said. "It was a poorly dressed injury so he asked the boy if he could look at it. He removed the dressing, cleaned the wound, applied some antiseptic and ointment, and dressed it properly."

On another patrol, some children caught the attention of one of the Guardsmen in the lead vehicle. The non-commissioned officer had what could only be described as a gut instinct to halt the patrol and engage in a conversation with the youngsters.

The children told them about some bombs in the area.

"We communicated the best we could -Ewe're slowly learning Iraqi, the children know some English, and we used a lot of hand gestures," said Gilbert. The children led them to three unexploded ordinances (UXOs).

The Explosive Ordinance Disposal team found a total of seven UXOs and destroyed them, Gilbert added. Now the village has a safe area for the children to walk and the villagers to work.

The level of trust that is growing between coalition forces and Iraqis becomes more apparent as each day passes, according to Gilbert.

"Earlier this week," he said, "an Iraqi family brough their three-year-old son to one of our towers. The child was sick and they were worried. We sent out a patrol with a medic to link up with them. The child was found to have a large bump on his head, apparently from a fall, and was suffering from seizures. While the medic was checking him out, the child went through three seizures."

The guardsmen took the child into the medical treatment center, and subsequently, the father and son were airlifted by an Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicpter to a hospital in the International Zone.

"Overall, we're thankful to assist the Iraqi people," said Gilbert. "It's what American soldiers do."