AL ASAD, Iraq -- Maintaining health standards and comfortable living conditions for Marines and Sailors deployed to Iraq is a mission one unit with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing takes very seriously.
The Sailors with the Preventative Medicine Unit here with Marine Headquarters Squadron 3, 3rd MAW, are working hard to ensure that their fellow servicemembers are living as cleanly and healthy as possible.
"Periodically, we conduct health and comfort inspections not only throughout the base here at Al Asad, but throughout the 3rd MAW (area of operations)," said Lt. j.g. Johnfritz E. Antoine, environmental health officer, MWHS-3. "Not all Marines and Sailors here are living in the same conditions.
"Some do not have as many comforts as others," he added. "It is important, however to inspect all living quarters to make sure that people have everything they need to stay clean and healthy to prevent to spread of germs and disease."
While conducting an inspection of the living area for Marines at Al Asad, Antoine said in areas without conventional plumbing or toilets, portable bathrooms are common. They are also potential breeding grounds for germs if waste is not properly disposed of.
"It's also critically important for people out here to wash their hands frequently, to brush their teeth with bottled water to stop the spread of coliform bacteria that can lead to cold or flu-like symptoms, as well as showering at least once a day, if they can," said Antoine. "Some units here (located outside of the) base do not have comfort trailers and have to use shower tents or outdoor sinks with non-potable water, so keeping good personal hygiene for them is vital to staying healthy."
PMU works with Marines and Sailors from the units they are inspecting to learn about current conditions, such as sanitation of portable restrooms, sinks and eating facilities, and any improvements that have been made during prior visits.
According to Antoine, action can then be taken by PMU to eliminate existing hazardous conditions.
"If I inspected a unit and I found a port-a-john sanitation problem, based on Navy regulations I would recommend that enough port-a-johns be ordered to meet the prescribed personnel ratio, which is currently 25 Marines per each toilet unit," he remarked. "Or if I discovered that a food establishment on base was causing (health) problems, I have the power to investigate and have it temporarily shut down until they comply with my recommendations to fix it."
Antoine, a Haiti native raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., said his inspections are similar to those he performed when he used to work for New York City's office of environmental health.
"Just like back in the United States, here in Iraq we look out to make sure people are throwing trash away properly; that it is not building up and that chow halls are sanitary places for people to eat," said Antoine. "But in Iraq our concern about the spread of germs and disease is heightened because of the foreign environment and the frequently Spartan living conditions that come with service in the field."