By Spc. Don Parker and Capt. Michael Gollaher
148th Public Affairs Detachment
Departing Spearhead Commander Maj. Gen. Paul E Funk had high
praise for "the magnificent human beings" of the Third
Armored Division during his final speech as he relinquished command
to Maj. Gen. Jerry R. Rutherford. Among those must certainly
be numbered the warriors who inflicted such terrible damage on
the Republican Guard.
But two of the individuals Funk singled out for special notice
won credit for their work after American guns fell silent. Funk
cited "Chief Warrant Officers (Ben) Beaoui and (Joseph)
Hatch up in Safwan, holding babies and treating them ... Soldiers
taking care of people they'd been fighting two weeks before."
Spearhead soldiers know that helping a people whom they
had just defeated is no contradiction... So help they did, fust
as naturally as they had gone to war weeks before.
Those who don't understand the American soldier might find
this odd. But Spearhead soldiers know that helping a people whom
they had just defeated is no contradiction. Soldiers join to
serve. They proved they were willing to give their lives to free
another people from oppression. It is onty a natural extension
that they would also give their effort to free people from pain,
from hunger, from thirst, from the desperate situation of being
in trouble with nowhere to go and with nobody to help.
So help Spearhead soldiers did, just as naturally as they
had gone to war weeks before. By the dozens they came to the
refugee camps and dime of Safwan - driving ambulances, writing
prescriptions, treating wounds, distributing food - not because
they had been ordered to, but for the simple reason that it was
the right thing to do.
"This is really a grass-roots effort," said Maj.
Kenneth Franklin as he directed patients toward aid tents inside
the refugee center controlled by 3rd AD's 4th Bn., 32nd Armor
south ofSaftvan. "It started at the checkpoints. We saw
people coming through with untreated wounds, malnourished, short
of food, water and medicine and said 'We can help.' It took off
Starting from the desire to help, requests moved up through
the Spearhead chain of command and things started happening.
Division efforts coordinated the use of the 109th Clearing Co,
the trucks of Charlie Co. from the 503rd Support Bn-, and hospital
facilities at the 912th M.A.S.H. Within days, hundreds of refugees
began receiving medical aid. At the 4/32 camp alone, the medical
teams quickly broke the 400 mark, treating 424 patients in a
That stretched the resources for Capt. Carolyn Sullivan, Capt.
Stuart Hetrick, CW2 Thomas Roberson and CW2 Mark Lawrence of
Franklin's medical team. "It's about four times what a doctor
could expect to handle in a very busy private practice, working
overtime," Franklin said. "Part of that's because we
don't need to spend time on the paperwork and other things involved
in private practice. But the other reason is that there's no
Sending patients away was not an alternative Franklin's team
wanted to contemplate. Other than the clinic inside Safwan, "We're
running the only medical center south of Baghdad," Franklin
said, "Some of these (patients) have walked from south of
Baghdad, or left hospitals in Basrah to get here," he said.
About half the patients were treated for trauma -- burns, wounds,
exposure -- from the war or the deprivation afterward. A third
suffered from malnutrition, dehydration or bacteriological disease.
Many of the rest were pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children.
Franklin's crew was making sure the refugees got more than
a pat on the back and a band-aid. "We've got equipment here
for blood tests and X-rays, and Charlie Company runs ambulance
service to the 912 MASH for serious cases. Most service you'd
get at an outpatient facility back home, we provide here."
And Franklin's team was only part of the Spearhead effort
to help the human tide in Southern Iraq. A couple miles up the
road, Beaoui and Hatch were inside Safwan, operating from one
of the town's buildings. That facility was not inside a 3rd AD
perimeter, and running it required an understanding of the community
as well as of medical procedures.
When Beaoui and HHC Medic SgL Thomas first entered the community,
they found a ruined public health clinic without water, electricity,
or glass on the windows. The townspeople had not been able to
practice good hygene for some time, and there was no potable
water. As a consequence, many people were ill or malnourished,
especially children and babies.
Stationing themselves at the ruined clinic and armed only with
their aid bags, Beaoui and Thomas began treating the people of
the town. They were almost mobbed.
"We were seeing a lot of old injuries due to the war
that had never been treated. Some children had been severely
injured playing with cluster bombs. Also there were many diseases
due to improper sanitation and hygiene," said Beaoui.
Reporting back to the division surgeon, Beaoui and Thomas
reported that the people of Safwan desperately needed some medical
services. They proposed that, despite its condition, the town
clinic be reopened with Spearhead medical staff, equipment and
supplies for the people of the town.
But they also proposed that there should be a condition placed
on the town for this service. Hatch and Beaoui felt strongly
that the townspeople themselves should clean up the clinic first,
decide who would be seen for treatment, and ultimately take on
the responsibility for the management of the clinic.
The townspeople agreed. Represented at first by "two
or three" concerned citizens, the people cleaned the clinic
up the best they could. Soon, Spearhead medics were treating
hundreds of Iraqi citizens in the town every day.
"The people told me that the first time they saw an American
GI in uniform they thought he must be very brutal," said
Beaoui. "They thought he might brutalize or even kill them,
and they were very afraid of us."
But stories of American compassion soon became well known.
Some EPWs even told Beaoui that "since we've been in this
desert (since August) no one has treated us better, or with more
respect than the American GIs, including the MPs that took us.
They gave us food and water and even treated our wounds. They
did their jobs real well." Beaoui said the EPWs felt more
comfortable and secure with the Americans than with their own
Indeed, upon reopening the clinic, more and more people became
involved in the rebuilding of their town. Some were very afraid
of reprisals for working with the Americans, but decided that
the needs of their town came first. Soon people were helping
the Americans with other humanitarian ventures, including repairing
the town well and joint patrols of the town with the MPs.
"We try to give them just one more day ... one more healthy
day," Hatch said concerning the future of the Safwan people.
"Years ago, when I was in Vietnam, I made a commitment
to help human beings and alleviate their suffering whenever I
could. I'm not a politician or a general, so I don't get involved
in any of these political decisions. But as an American soldier,
I feel real good that I can help bring a little order and stability
into these folks' lives," Hatch said.
Beaoui and Thomas feel much the same way. 'The 3rd Armored
Division has a real good reputation in this town now," Beaoui
said. "They see what a big heart the American GI has. I
want to leave a legacy here of people helping people, no matter
who they are or where they are from. It is a humanitarian story