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Doctor volunteers for third Iraq tour
By Staff Sgt. Barbara Harbison, 108ARW/PA
TAG at Operation Jump Start

Ask Col. William “Buck” Dodson to describe his job while deployed as commander of the 447th Expedition¬ary Medical Support Hospital at Sather Air Base in Baghdad, Iraq and he will tell you he was a young Col. Potter, referring to the charac¬ter in the television show M*A*S*H.
And like the television show charac¬ter, Col. Dodson oversaw a staff of 36 personnel who administered to the medi¬cal needs of all the branches of the American military, Iraqi detainees and civilians.

Dodson volunteered to go to the Operation Iraqi Freedom theater for his third, and longest, deployment over the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays because that was the hardest time frame to get volunteers. Why did he volunteer to go again? “We need volunteers now more than ever, because of the increasing number of casualties,”
Col. Dodson checks an Iraqi child's respiratory response at the Civil Military Operation Center. Photo courtesy Col. William Dodson, 108ARW/MG.

Along with members from the Pennsylvania Air Guard, the hospital was home to Master Sgt. Patty Hughes of the 177th Fighter Wing who was the Public Health NCOIC. She led the N.J. contingent in painting a state flag on the mortar blast protection wall.

His job encompassed a number of areas including seeing patients in the emergency room, assisting with surgery in the operating room and caring for Iraqi civilians in the Civil Military Operation Center.

Some of the hospital’s Iraqi patients were civilians who were shot by insurgents because their relatives where in government or the military.

The free clinic was constructed and run by U.S. Army civil affairs units and open three days a week in the afternoons. There, staff saw mostly minor infections and trauma come to their “doors.” “We had a neck tumor, an extra large hernia and two severe fractures that required surgery,” said the doctor. He noted that about half of the patients were children. Col. Dodson feels that the Iraqi citizens, who came to the clinic because they couldn’t be helped by the Iraqi medical system, were happy that we [the Americans] were helping. He added that at times they did work with Iraqi doctors who would come to the American hospital to help.

Dodson said that some days were harder than others. One
day three members of the base’s EOD team were killed by a vehicle borne improvised explosive device. In another incident among the injured patients was a 14-year-old Iraqi boy who later died despite efforts of the medical team.
While Col. Dodson was commanding the 447th, the first Iraqi Flight Surgeon School took place. For weeks, the staff taught the Iraqi’s the effects of flight, altitude and hypoxia (lack of oxygen), on the human body.

He was also responsible for two detainee health teams that examined Iraqi prisoners before and after they were interrogated.

Each deployment the doctor has been on has increased in duration, this one lasting more than 120 days was the longest. He said that this one also saw a higher rate of casualties, both military and civilian, than his previous deploy¬ments. But Dodson stated his missions to the war zones “give me the deepest sense of making a difference.”
Col. Dodson, who is the commander of the 108th Medical Group, also wanted to compliment the members of the medical group and the 108th as a whole. “We who are fortunate to deploy could not do it without the people who are in the unit,” he stated. “They get us ready to go over and cover our workload while we are gone.

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Volume 33 Number 2 Staff / Information
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs