Local vet says Afghanistan is where military should focus | PostIndependent.com

Local vet says Afghanistan is where military should focus

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Navy corpsman David Haynes-Norton expected his seven months in Barwana, Iraq, would be spent mostly treating soldiers wounded by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) or gunshots.

To his surprise, he found that he spent much of his time treating sick and injured Iraqi civilians.

“Just about every house we stopped at, someone had some kind of medical problem,” Haynes-Norton, 22, said from the couch of his parents home in Glenwood Springs.

Being the only medic in his platoon, for the two months he spent inside the city limits of Barwana, he split his time between three squads who did three daily patrols through the city streets.

But helping the Iraqi citizens was a nice surprise that made him feel like he was making a difference in the world.

“You feel good after a day of doing something,” he said.

The worst incident Haynes-Norton recalls was a 3-year-old boy who had pulled down a pot of boiling water onto himself from the stove where his mother prepared dinner.

Haynes-Norton estimated that the kid had second degree burns over 40 percent of his body and third degree burns over 25 percent. The local hospital didn’t have any way of treating the severe burns, so Haynes-Norton did what he could with limited supplies; antibiotic, baking soda, and an intravenous drip to prevent renal failure.

“He was totally burned up. I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “His skin was falling off of him.”

Haynes-Norton went to the boy’s house every-other-day for two weeks to treat the boy’s burns. He had to remove the dead skin so the new skin could grow in and heal.

Unfortunately, it was during the time Haynes-Norton’s platoon was pulling out of Iraq to come back to the states.

“I don’t know if he actually lived or not,” Haynes-Norton said with an air of concern. “He was really bad. The worst I’ve ever seen.”

He was prepared to see a lot of heinous things during his deployment, but peeling the burned skin off of a 3-year-old boy was not one of them.

“That was the most horrible thing,” he said shaking his head. “He was only 3 and he took it better than most grown men would.”

The mother was appreciative of the Medic’s efforts to help her son.

Haynes-Norton said that most of the Iraqi people were very friendly, even when the soldiers would wake them in the middle of the night to search their homes for contraband.

“The Arabic culture is really generous,” he said. “When someone comes into their house, they would offer something to drink, chai, and something to eat, mostly Hobus.”

Hobus is a native Iraqi bread that is eaten with most meals, Haynes-Norton said.

Those were some of the good memories.

While stationed in Barwana, there were only a couple of times where Haynes-Norton felt like he could be involved in a “conflict”, he said.

“Most of the patrols are great. But most of the time we didn’t have anyone out to get us,” Haynes-Norton said.

But Barwana, in the Anbar Province in western Iraq, is one of the less violent areas of the war-torn country. And in his opinion, the American and Allied Forces have done all they can do, in that region.

It wasn’t “The Surge” that you keep hearing about, he said. It was the “Anbar Awakening” led by General Patraeus that made the biggest difference in this soldier’s opinion.

“It’s the Iraqi solution to the Iraqi problem,” he said.

Haynes-Norton described the Anbar Awakening as a “pay-off” for the “Shaks”, a tribe who control much of the country. The Anbar awakening was a solution to the hundreds of Abu Graib prisoners being released after having been detained for nearly five years.

“Most of these dudes were locked up for five years and were never told why, or had charges brought against them,” Haynes-Norton said. “So they are going to be sympathetic toward terrorists.”

So the military paid the Shaks “to keep an eye” on the prisoners coming out of Abu Graib. And if the prisoners did anything wrong or were found to be sympathetic to terrorists, the Shakes would “take care of them” as they saw fit, Haynes-Norton said.

It was the Iraqi solution to the Iraqi problem.

“That is what really turned around the Anbar Province, which is now the most peaceful part of Iraq. When you hear about attacks now, it’s in Mosul, Bashi, or Baghdad.” Haynes-Norton said. “In the Haditha Valley, it’s really turning around. It’s great down there. It’s a different part of Iraq. There is obviously still the threat of being blown up, but it’s a lot more peaceful than Baghdad.”

In Haynes-Norton’s opinion, the military needs to focus more on Afghanistan.

“The military really needs to leave Iraq right now,” he said.

All that is going to happen now, in Haynes-Norton’s opinion, is the Iraqi Police (IPs) are going to start taking money from terrorist groups and will start turning, and weapons and equipment are going to start disappearing.

“It already has,” he said.

While he was still stationed at Copalis Military Base, just two kilometers outside of Barwana, Haynes-Norton said two of the IP’s vehicles and three PKC machine guns, similar to the American version P-40, disappeared.

“America has done what we can. We gave them the Anbar Province in pristine condition,” Haynes-Norton said.

Afghanistan is the place he believes the U.S. Military should focus on. He’ll get his chance as he’ll be deploying to Afghanistan with his platoon in July, 2009. He has friends stationed in Afghanistan currently that are “getting messed up right now,” he said.

“America has done what we can,” he said. “Iraq is never going to be like America. Now is the time to leave. If we stay, we’ll be right back where we started.”

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