FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq -- In a hostile combat environment Marines are taught to keep an eye out for suspicious activity or people who could harm them. The enemy you fight is always a threat. What most don't know is that there is a threat among them that can be just as dangerous-insects and disease.
For Marines and sailors here, the Preventive Medicine Technicians of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit's medical team are on the lookout for anything on the camp that could endanger the unit's mission.
"Our responsibilities in the camp are to control the insect population, whether it's scorpions, mosquitoes, sand flies and the rodent population," said Petty Officer 1st Class Benny M. Satterfield, PMT for the Command Element, 24th MEU. "Also, we have to do environmental health stuff, like make sure water is chlorinated to the proper level."
Reducing the insect and pest population requires identifying the threat, then developing a treatment that will get rid of them while also keeping Marines and sailors safe.
"One of the biggest health threats we have is being bit by sand flies, which transmit leishmaniasis and sand fly fever to a lesser degree," said Satterfield, an Ardmore, Ala., native. "But the control method we use for mosquitoes, spraying with a truck, doesn't work for sand flies. They don't fly as far. So I always take [DEET] along when walking around to give out to people because it is the only real prevention measure we have for sand flies."
In addition to controlling the pest population PMTs ensure hygiene facilities are clean and don't pose a health threat to Marines, sailors, and soldiers in camp. Everything is checked daily, from the showers and portable toilets to the new dining facility scheduled to open soon.
"Water in the showers, even though it is not potable and you are not supposed to drink it, it should still be [chlorinated] 2 to 5 parts per million," said Satterfield. "To reduce the risk of getting any skin conditions."
Their duties have them on the move constantly. As the camp here grows, so do their responsibilities to keep their Marines, sailors and soldiers healthy and mission-ready.
"We're walking from place to place all the time," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Erick L. English, PMT for MEU Service Support Group 24. "There is a lot of back tracking and double checking to make sure everything stays up to standards."
Thanks to their efforts, the PMTs have done a good job keeping their fellow service members healthy.
"So far we think [preventive measures] have been very effective," said Lt. Commander James M. Harris, MEU surgeon, 24th MEU. "We have more dermatology and respiratory problems than we would expect above the norm back home, but not unexpected at this point on our deployment."