By Cpt. Michael Gollaher
148th Public Affairs Detachment
"Medics are like firemen," observes Sgt Sergio Nino,
a medic from Charlie Co., 4th BIL, 32nd Armor. "We spend
most of our time training and working on our equipment instead
of people. But we're there when you need us."
Fortunately for the Spearhead Division, most medics spent
much more time treating Iraqi EPWs than our own soldiers.
"It was nothing you'd expect from a ground war, but we
were ready," says Chief Warrant Officer Ben Beaoui, physician
assistant at the division main command post' "I'm the happiest
man on this earth," he says for not seeing so many American
On the other hand, he spent a whole evening treating 30 Iraqi
prisoners. For three days and two nights, they had been force-marched
from the Saudi border in a "tactical withdrawal" Most
had no shoes. They were thirsty, hungry, dirty and scared, according
to Beaoui, a native of Kairouan, Tunisia, who speaks Arabic.
The Iraqis did not expect such kindness from the Americans,
said Beaoui. The enemy prisoners were surprised when Command
Sgt. Maj. Joe Hill gave them blankets and cigarettes.
"We showed them the human side of the American soldier
" Beaoui said. "They were really happy to see us."
One EPW was so happy to be treated for a shrapnel wound by
Spec. Michael C Gindra, a Chicago native attached to HHC of the
4/32 Armor. Gindra said, "He put his arms around me and
tried to kiss me."
Most Iraqi EPWs were pretty hungry and ragged. Some had shrapnel
injuries. Most had blisters or sores caused by an inability to
perform proper personal hygiene for months. Some werevery well
educated, including masters degrees in French or engineering.
Others were bewildered 16 and 17-year-olds who were taken directly
from their homes to the field.
Medics from 2nd Bn., 3rd Field Arty. had an especially touching
experience. They saved the life of a young Iraqi named Lamiz.
He had collapsed and stopped breathing from the utter exhaustion
of being forced to march for four days from Kuwait without any
food, water or shoes. He had been severely beaten by his officer
for refusing to shoot Kuwaiti children. When he finally gained
consciousness and overcame his initial fears, he was grateful
to the point of tears, even offering the medics all the Iraqi
money he had in his pocket.
Unfortunately, not all Spearhead medics had such a positive
experience. A few had still had to treat their fellow soldiers
and friends who had fallen in the battle.
"I was on CQ the day the scouts from 4/32 drew their
weapons for Iraq," recalled Nino. "I remember saying
to myself, 'I wonder how many of these guys are going to make
it back'" Now he knows. The thought came back to haunt him
the night he drove his medical track past a burning T-72 tank
that had engaged a Bradley Scout Vehicle and crew.
"I wasn't sure how I'd react or handle myself before
this," says Gindra, who treated the injured with Nino. "They
were friends of mine. But when I got there, I just did what I
knew I had to do. It wasn't fun, but I learned a lot. I just
did what I knew I had to do."
They did keep two of the three wounded scouts alive that night.
But one died in Nino's arms just as they were approaching the
battalion aid station.
"It really hit me later, after we were clear of enemy
fire," he said somberly. "I got sentimental about it,
you know, and I asked myself a lot of hard questions."
"I hope I never have to do something like this again,"
he says of his experience. "I got my combat medical badge
and a Bronze Star for valor, but I'd give 'em back in a heartbeat
if it would bring those guys back."