22nd MEU Afghanistan Recap: Humanitarian Operations

21 Aug 2004 | Gunnery Sgt. Keith A. Milks

As the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) pushed deep into Afghanistan's Oruzgan and Zabol provinces in pursuit of Taliban and anti-coalition militia factions, it did more than leave behind a series of foiled ambushes, vanquished enemies, and scorched weapons caches.A comprehensive civil affairs campaign undertaken by the MEU, orchestrated in concert with the unit's combat operations, sought not only to engender good will between Coalition forces and the Afghan people, but also make a tangible and long-lasting difference in their impoverished lives.The cornerstone of its civil affairs campaign were NIGHTINGALE operations that involved medical and dental specialists from the MEU Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), and MEU Service Support Group 22.Under a security umbrella provided by elements of BLT 1/6, the MEU's doctors, corpsmen, dentists, and dental technicians visited isolated villages where many of the local residents had never before seen a medical professional.There were four NIGHTINGALE missions conducted in May and June, and these Medical/Dental Civil Affairs Projects (MedDenCAPs) brought much-needed care to 2,027 medical and 107 dental patients. While long-term care was impossible under the circumstances, the missions did much to alleviate pain and suffering and provide preventive health advice and referrals.While not necessarily part of the NIGHTINGALE missions, other humanitarian projects undertaken by the MEU included dozens of well-building projects, the delivery of school supplies, mine/unexploded ordnance awareness programs, and the emergency treatment of sick or injured Afghans, some of whom had been attacked by Taliban insurgents.Operation NIGHTINGALE was named after Florence Nightingale, a 19th-Century British nurse whose name has become synonymous with health care. Nightingale is widely recognized for advancing the profession of nursing and revolutionizing hospital care and sanitation.For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at http://www.22meu.usmc.mil.
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit