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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL REPORT

Iraq Journals

Glimpses of life in a war-torn country by GNS national security correspondent John Yaukey and photo director Jeff Franko.

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Thursday, April 3

Battle aid station waiting for action

By John Bebow | The Detroit News

NEAR THE TIGRIS RIVER, Iraq - On a day when front-line troops confronted two divisions of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, Detroit Receiving Hospital certainly encountered more trauma than the Battle Aid Station at 1st Marine Division Headquarters.

That's the conclusion of headquarters surgeon Stephanie Dennis, 33, a 2000 graduate of Wayne State University's School of Medicine.

As of Thursday evening, Dennis had only dealt with two minor gunshot wounds to Marines and one Iraqi prisoner of war who had been shot numerous times in the arms and legs.

While other front-line Marine surgeons spread throughout the battle theater may have had more casualties, Dennis said she would have been much busier if the Iraqis had put up major resistance.

``It shows that we are ... moving through them quickly,'' said Dennis, a native of Columbus, Ohio, who interned with trauma surgeons at Detroit Receiving.

Marine field radios crackled Thursday afternoon with word that front-line soldiers had captured more than 30 busloads of Iraqi prisoners of war.

``If they surrender, we will treat them with dignity,'' said Col. John Pomfrett, commander of Combat Service Support Group 11, which handles POWs and supply issues behind front-line troops.

Marines were upbeat as they prepared to break down Pomfrett's camp for the second time in 12 hours Thursday evening and move forward another 25 miles. The unit expected to rest less than 40 miles outside Baghdad by the end of the night, with rumors growing stronger that Marines could be in the capital city this weekend.

``Gotta love it,'' said Staff Sgt. John Romero, 29, of Phoenix as he took down tents. ''Every time we move, we are one step closer to home.''

Marines moved Thursday with a mix of speed and caution, wearing boots and suits to protect them from chemical and biological attacks in one of the hottest days of the Iraqi spring.

``It's all good so far, but caged animals do crazy things,'' said Pomfrett's intelligence officer, Sgt. Mike Presnall, 30, from Sierra Vista, Ariz. He referred to the continuous threat of chemical and biological agents raining down on U.S. troops as they coalesced around Baghdad.

But Dennis, the surgeon, said her biggest fear is overexuberance, not chemical warfare.

``I don't want people to become complacent before we get there and start getting hurt more as a result,'' she said. "I also don't want us to move so fast that we leave here without doing some good for the people.''

After the battles end, she envisions going to civilian areas and setting up one-day medical clinics to help more people like the farmer who was fortunate enough to live next to where the 1st Marine Division set up its headquarters Thursday.

The farmer had a broken arm from an accident several weeks ago. It was infected, and he couldn't move it.

Dennis gave the farmer antibiotics and said she could have him in good shape if she could stay with him a couple of more days.

``That's ideal,'' she said. "I wish we could do it in a larger way.''