ARMY medics from the city have joined a peacekeeping mission to heal the wounds of a country ravaged by war.
About 50 soldiers and medics from the Gosport’s 33 Field Hospital are flying out from RAF Brize Norton tomorrow as they begin a six-month tour in South Sudan.
The men and women of the squadron will join up with a small party from the field hospital already based in the African state – the world’s newest nation.
Their role will see them manning a tented field hospital and tending to about 1,800 peacekeepers from the United Nations.
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said the whole area should be proud of the team.
She said: ‘The 33 Field Hospital are some of Gosport’s unsung heroes.
‘Their world-class training at Fort Blockhouse equips them to deploy medics overseas, such as South Sudan, where they’ll endure harsh, hostile living conditions in order to heal and save lives with their customary professionalism.’
The unit has been preparing for about a year for the major deployment.
They will be operating alongside the UN, running a field hospital in the small South Sudanese town Bentiu, paving the way for a permanent facility there in the future.
A savage civil war has been raging in the country for four years, claiming the lives of thousands with almost one million people from the nation having fled the fighting.
The unit’s main role is not to treat victims of the war but the peacekeepers, including a team of Royal Engineers, who are rebuilding South Sudan’s battered infrastructure.
Among the team heading out includes Corporal Michael Adeleke, of Gosport. The 32-year-old transferred from the infantry to join the medical unit.
This is his first deployment – one that is made all the more difficult as he is expecting the birth of his first son on September 5.
‘The first time I will see my little boy will be on Skype or WhatsApp – that’s going to be emotional,’ said the expectant young dad.
‘It’s tough leaving my wife.
‘She is nine months pregnant so the baby could come at anytime. My wife is going to go into labour with my child and I will be going to South Sudan.
‘That’s heartbreaking. I won’t see him for six months.’
On the squad is everything from intensive care teams and dentists, to physiotherapists and clerks. They are heading out during the height of the country’s rainy season.
One of the main focuses is to prevent the spread of diseases such as malaria and improving hygiene. They are also on hand to treat more exotic tropical illnesses, which has taken specialist training, and even snake bites.
But Cpl Adeleke added that although they are not in a combat role, the unit had to keep their wits about them.
He said: ‘Anything can happen. We have to be prepared for everything. We have heard reports of killings and kidnappings. You just have to be ready.
‘It’s overwhelming to be heading out. I want to make a difference, even if it’s small.’
There are about 360 British troops deployed in South Sudan, including the 78 from Gosport. The role was taken over from 16 Medical Regiment by 33 Field Hospital.
The last deployment by the unit, based at Fort Blockhouse, was in Afghanistan in 2009.