MEDCAP in Modrica

Sgt. Kelly Luster
First published in
SFOR Informer#155, January 9, 2003

In Gornja Medida there's an elderly woman, a farmer's wife, who fell down a flight of stairs last summer and was seriously injured. Six months later, she is still gritting her teeth in pain as she moves about her little home. Medical help is only a few miles away in Gradacac, but she says she cannot go there because she is a Bosnian-Serb and must find a way to get to a medical facility, perhaps in Brcko, where she can be seen by a doctor she feels she can trust. "But I have no way to get Brcko," she says. "So I endure."

Modrica - For Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to have any kind of hope for the future, its people must find a way to bring down such self-imposed barriers to the pursuit of happiness.
The shortest day of the year
On the day of the Winter Solstice, Dec. 21 - the shortest day of the year - Task Force Med Eagle (TFME) demonstrated a cooperative process that could serve as a perfect example of barrier busting, and help the citizens of BiH move a long way down the path toward modern civilisation.
That was the day medical assets of the U.S., Turkish, Dutch, Danish, British and Canadian SFOR contingents collaborated with doctors from the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS) and local physicians and nurses in Modrica. They provided basic health care to some of the people who need attention most, regardless of their cultural roots.
According to Lt. Col. Joseph Warren, Senior Nursing Officer, TFME, using military medical assets to achieve political results is by no means a novel concept. In fact, it hearkens back to U.S. interdiction in Southeast Asia.
"This kind of medical operation was initially conceived during the Vietnam War to assist the South Vietnamese military, whose medical assets were very thin," Warren said. "Before long the activity developed into a program to provide medical care to local civilians, and it was very effective, an immediate success."
The MEDCAP - Medical Civil Action Project - is now a standard feature of America's military involvement in world affairs. Within the circle of command, it's called MEDRETE - Medical Readiness Training Exercise - and it is a major civil-military operations project which pays dividends by enhancing the military's medical capabilities in the new world order of coalition conflict.
People are not like automobiles
Working together toward a common goal is the missing ingredient in the Bosnian political stew, according to Maj. Ron Whetstone, senior medical officer, 104th Cav. "People are not like automobiles," he said. "An Audi may be different than a Chevrolet in some meaningful ways, but a human being has all the same parts, in all the same places, performing all the same functions as every other human in the world. You don't need a Bosnian-Serb medical specialist to help a person with a respiratory infection merely because the patient identifies himself as being of B-Serb extraction."
Hopefully, Whetstone's message was not lost on the 122 individuals who showed up at the Sutjeska School in Modrica with a wide variety of medical conditions and complaints. The majority of the patients who presented themselves are classified as returnees - displaced persons and refugees, victims of the ethnic warfare of the early '90s, who have come to Modrica to begin again. Identifying them as Bosniacs and Bosnian-Croats, most were middle-aged or older and all were destitute. The first person they had to deal with, at the registration desk, initiating the chain of events that could lead to healing, was an officer in the uniform of the VRS.
"Frankly, you could see the shock on many faces," said Maj. Whetstone, "but it was a hurdle they have to learn to clear, and on this day, they did."

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: US
Humanitarian Aid

Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photos: Sgt. Kelly Luster

Capt. Sloan Lanctot, dentist, and Staff Sgt. Alma Hernandez-Soto, dental hygienist, Task Force Med Eagle, work on a local man's teeth during the recent MEDCAP held in Modrica.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge

The hallways of Sutjeska School in Modrica were filled with people in need of medical attention.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge

An elderly man speaks with a medic at the MEDCAP in Modrica.