Major from March helps provide humanitarian aid for African Lion

A small boy relunctantly opens his mouth for Maj. Brent Dupper as the major prepares to work on the boy's teeth during humanitarian assistance Exercise African Lion April 23 in Morocco. Major Dupper joined a team of 944th Medical Squadron members from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., to participate in humanitarian assistance at six sites in Morocco. Major Dupper is a dentist with the 452nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Susan Stout)

A small boy relunctantly opens his mouth for Maj. Brent Dupper as the major prepares to work on the boy's teeth during humanitarian assistance Exercise African Lion April 23 in Morocco. Major Dupper joined a team of 944th Medical Squadron members from Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., to participate in humanitarian assistance at six sites in Morocco. Major Dupper is a dentist with the 452nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Susan Stout)

GUELMIM, Morocco -- More than 3,700 Moroccans were treated by 37 American military members as part of an April 15 to 30 humanitarian assistance visit to Morocco called African Lion 2007. 

Maj. Brent Dupper, 452nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron, joined the 944th Medical Squadron from Luke Air Force Base and a Navy dentist and her assistant to participate in the regularly scheduled, combined U.S.-Moroccan military exercise designed to promote improved interoperability. 

"I volunteered to go because I had never been involved with a humanitarian mission before," said Major Dupper. "I would suggest if anybody has an opportunity like this, to go on a humanitarian mission, they should take it. It is an awesome experience." 

The team included members from several specialties including dermatology, optometry, pediatrics, gynecology, internal medicine and dental. 

The group visited six sites in six days with each site containing Moroccan patients with various medical needs. The Americans and their Moroccan medical counterparts were able to assist 3,746 patients and provided 5,803 prescriptions and 833 pairs of glasses.

"Everybody meshed really well as a team," said Major Dupper. "They just jumped in there and went to work. The (Moroccans) were tremendously gracious. They thanked us over and over again." 

The initial challenge of the mission was the language barrier, but it was soon overcome. 

"We had a Moroccan military dentist from the hospital there and he was invaluable in handling translation needs," said Major Dupper. "Also, through sign language it was possible to get the point across, but sometimes it took a second attempt." 

In addition to medical care, American medics also brought needed supplies and visited school children. Maj. Madeline Sanchez, the 944th Medical Squadron chief nurse, collected donations of school supplies to take to the villages of Morocco. 

"One village we went to was only about 35 kilometers from the military hospital but very isolated," said Major Dupper. "They spoke Berber and not even our translators knew the language." 

"Besides language barriers, they have problems with transportation that have prevented them from getting needed care. A lot of these people are very, very poor. Donkeys are widely used as personal transportation and going 35 kilometers on a donkey is pretty
hard." 

On the second day, the set-up for medical care was next to a small 452nd AMDS helps
provide humanitarian aid for African Lion school. 

"The most rewarding part was the kids, said Major Dupper. "A lot of them were super kids and this gave us a chance to hopefully help make their lives a little less painful." 

After the patients had been processed, Major Sanchez and the 944th squadron's first sergeant, Master Sgt. Darrin Andsager, walked over with a Moroccan escort to visit the children. 

The quiet classroom soon transformed as the eight students stood up and in unison greeted the pair with a welcome song. They immediately returned to their seats and began their class work. After asking where their teacher was, Major Sanchez learned he
went to the medical site and was assisting the Americans with translations in the pharmacy. 

Sergeant Andsager immediately connected with the children and sat at their desks to see what they were learning. The book was in Arabic and he laughed as he told them he didn't understand. A boy, about 8 years old, pulled out the same book in French. The first sergeant again laughed and said he didn't understand. 

Another boy from the desk in front of them passed a French dictionary and as Sergeant Andsager thumbed through the pages he looked up and asked, "How do you say 'barbecue' in French?" 

The boy laughed, covered his face, and said, "Barbecue!" 

(story contributed to by Amy Abbott, Beacon Editor)