Where family, friends, and strangers can come to follow the life of a soldier as he tours the globe.


Carrying on Traditions, Red Cross Deploys to Iraq, Providing Services Like Messages and Smiles

By Spc. Eric A. Rutherford
115th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Novermber 19, 2007

TIKRIT, Iraq – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have a lot to worry about in a forward-deployed combat zone. Besides roadside bombs, sniper attacks, and ambushes, they also have to worry about their families back home who may have emergencies arise while the service member is away. That is why the Red Cross deploys to the front lines.

The American Red Cross has its roots with the Armed Forces, dating back to the Civil War, when Clara Barton founded the organization. The Red Cross works closely with the military even today, often working in forward-deployed combat areas in Red Cross Stations like the one on Contingency Operating Base Speicher.

The Red Cross’s mission here is to ensure service members have communication with their families back home in the event of an emergency, said Debby Hutton, assistant station manager for the American Red Cross Armed Forces Emergency Services, who added that the Red Cross will initiate a message from the family to the deployed service member’s command. The command will then make the decision to send the service member home on emergency leave based on information provided by the doctor treating the family member back home, said Hutton, of Kingsport Tenn., who has been a volunteer for 15 years, and an employee of the Red Cross for the last five years.

Not all of what the Red Cross does in deployed areas is deliver messages with bad news.

“The most rewarding part of my job is the interaction with soldiers and being able to help,” Said Hutton, wearing her desert camouflage uniform that was issued to her by the Red Cross. “It is a small part in what goes on over here, but when you get to pass off the birth messages—the good news, that is really great.”

Another service the Red Cross provides for service members, said Hutton, they also provide hospital visits here for the wounded warriors.

“It is a bad situation if a service member is there,” Said Hutton “If you can go talk to them for five or 15 minutes and take them a magazine or a phone card to call home when they get out, so you can make them smile—then that makes the day worth while."

Hutton, who transferred to the Armed Forces Emergency Services side of the Red Cross from a local chapter in Kingsport, said she wanted to work more closely with the service members because she respects what the men and women in the military and wanted to be able to help them more.

Aside from the missions Red Cross performs for service members here, Hutton has her own mission as well.

“I had a mission when I came over here, that everybody I met, I would make them smile,” Said Hutton. “I have run up against a few—I am still working on them. I have gotten smirks, not full smiles, but I will get a smile before I leave. It is my mission.”

The current members of the Red Cross station here, who arrived Nov. 4th for their four-month tour, provide services to all Marines in theater as well as the majority of service members in northern Iraq.
Debby Hutton gives a comfort kit to Army 2nd Lt. Larry Cook at the Combat Support Hospital on Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Tikrit, Iraq, Nov. 19. Hutton, of Kingsport Tenn., is the assistant station manager of the Red Cross station on COB Speicher. Cook, of Greensboro, N.C., is a platoon leader with 3rd Battalion, 1st Aviation. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Eric A. Rutherford)


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