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Czech field surgical team leaves for Iraq to operate at U.S. base

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Prague, Dec 5 (CTK) – A 17-member field surgical team left for Iraq yesterday to support NATO coalition and Iraqi soldiers at a U.S. base a couple of dozens of kilometres away from Mosul, Jan Sulc, spokesman for the general staff, has told CTK.
The government made a decision on the mission and parliament approved it.
The soldiers left the Prague civilian airport shortly after midnight.
“The major task of the field surgical team will be medical support for and care of members of the coalition and Iraqi armed forces,” Sulc said.
The unit is mainly comprised of members of the Military Healthcare Agency who are joined by soldiers from the Central Military Hospital Prague and other bodies.
The specialist core is comprised of two surgeons, one anaesthesiologist, other specialists and mid-level healthcare personnel.
“Czech military doctors and health care personnel justly enjoy high trust and recognition of our coalition partners,” Sulc quoted Chief of Staff Josef Becvar as saying before the team’s departure.
Becvar said Czech doctors save a high number of human lives in operations and help many wounded people.
“You are perfectly trained and prepared professionals and I am convinced that you will manage your tasks in Iraq within the U.S. field hospital of which you will be part,” Becvar said.
The healthcare team will stay in Iraq for half a year. Afterwards, experts, most probably engineers, may be sent to Iraq to train their colleagues in rendering explosive systems harmless.
The retreating Islamist militants leave behind thousands of them. They claim lives among civilians, including children.
Czech healthcare personnel also operated in Afghanistan within a U.S. hospital at the Kabul airport. In the past, they were sent to Croatia, in 1999 a field hospital provided aid to refugees in Albania and earthquake-afflicted people in Turkey. In 2002-03, they operated in Afghanistan. They also helped in Iraq and Pakistan.
The Czech Republic has provided weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi and Kurdish armed forces. The Czech military also sent instructors to train pilots of the Czech-made L-159 combat planes to Iraq in summer.
On Sunday, the unit completed its mission at the Balad base and it officially transferred its operational tasks to the members of another aviation advisory team, the military says on its website.
Soldiers from the first task force operated in Iraq until the end of June 2016. They trained 21 technicians and four Iraqi pilots who had undergone a course in the Aero Vodochody aircraft maker in the Czech Republic earlier.
The aviation advisory team in Iraq is aimed to make the Iraqi air forces capable of operating the L-159s independently by the end of 2018, the military says.

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