Acosta appreciates work of military in Iraq
Winn medical consultant aids health plan for civilian workers in reconstruction

Journal News Editor

Anyone who thinks it's hot in Louisiana should spend a week in Kuwait City in August. The temperature rises to 120 degrees according to Tony Acosta, of Winnfield, Louisiana, who just left after a tour which included a stopovers in Basrah and Baghdad, the Iraqi Middle East cities being patrolled by American and British military forces after the recent liberation operation.

"It does cool off to around 104 at night," Acosta said. He described walking around the area as being similar to having a hair dryer blowing into one's face at all times.

Acosta visited the Persian Gulf area as a consultant to construction firms on the job rebuilding the devastated cities in Iraq. Acosta accompanied Mark Majors, owner of MedExpress in central Louisiana. Both were invited to Kuwait and Iraq to help American companies build some type of health services to provide care for their civilian employees.

Acosta is a Physicians Assistant-Certified, a flight paramedic and serves as Clinical Services Manager with the Winn Parish Medical Center in Winnfield.

Acosta and Majors spent July 9-17 in the Persian Gulf area. The Louisiana men made one short stopover in Basrah where British troops are headquartered. On July 14, they spent the night at the Baghdad airport awaiting transportation out of Iraq.

While Acosta admits to being slightly anxious while bedded down for the night in the capital city of Iraq where American forces face a constantly evolving mop-up operation, he did say he felt comfortable with the service men on sentry duty everywhere. The airport is a secure area with an 18-mile perimeter fence constantly guarded by troops. The next day they moved on to Kuwait.

Days begin slightly later in Kuwait than they do in the states, according to Acosta's experience. Most business begins around 10 a.m.

"By that time, I'd been up, done my daily work-out and was walking on the beach," Acosta said.

The men stayed in the Kuwait Hilton, a five-star hotel as upscale as any other Hilton worldwide, according to Acosta.

"Kuwait City is a resort area and they have modern highways and all the modern conveniences you'd expect in a seaside resort," Acosta stated.

The population usually eats lunch around noon and then they shut the doors of business until 5 p.m., mostly because of the oppressive heat.

"A striking thing we discovered during our visit was how late the Kuwaitis eat," Acosta said. Kuwait City residents take their evening meal around 11 p.m.

As for food, Acosta tried Indian, Lebanese as well as other Oriental foods and found most dishes delicious. He compared Indian curried shrimp to Louisiana's shrimp Creole.

"Don't eat the pickled curry," he advised. Even though it has a tomato base, a little of the highly spiced dish goes a long way, according to Acosta.

Fishing is an important industry in Kuwait, whose national symbol is their traditional fishing boat, found on signs everywhere. Other signs in the area welcomed Americans and Acosta found the people to be definitely pro-American.

The women dressed in traditional Arab style with unmarried women completely covered, only their eyes showing. Almost none of the Kuwaiti women work in public. Most of the people in the hotels and businesses were from other countries. Foreign women dressed conservatively, but as they would in other countries.

"We visited several hospitals," Acosta said. "They were very up-to-date. In one, the Director of Nursing was a Kuwaiti woman."

Flying over the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers, Acosta was struck with the agricultural possibilities in a country that has a 12-month growing season. From the air, he could see irrigation canals flowing in all directions. With enough water, agriculture could be big business someday, he believes.

"The date trees were everywhere with dates hanging heavy," he said.

Another memorable sight was one of Saddam Hussein's favorite palaces. It borders the Baghdad airport and is built on a small island, protected by the waters on each side.

While in Iraq, Acosta saw the young men and women who patrol the areas constantly. Even in 120 degree heat, they wore long sleeves.

"It made you appreciate the men on the ground there," he said.

Fortunately, they heard no gunshots during their stay.

"But there were constant patrols and check points we had to go through to move anywhere," Acosta said.

At present, Acosta and the company he works with are compiling a proposal for health services in the Persian Gulf area. If the contract is negotiated, he could possibly be called on to travel once more to the area.

"I have no problem with traveling to Kuwait. It was a beautiful country," he said.