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Staff Sgt. Gina Gray holds newly born Zuher. Gray helped deliver Zuher during Operation Ivy Cyclone when paratroopers of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne) were searching the house and discovered the mother needed help.

Staff Sgt. Gina Gray holds newly born Zuher. Gray helped deliver Zuher during Operation Ivy Cyclone when paratroopers of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne) were searching the house and discovered the mother needed help. (Courtesy of U.S. Army)

Staff Sgt. Gina Gray doesn’t play a doctor on television.

As an Army journalist based in Vicenza, Italy, she’s spent the past five months filing segments on the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Iraq. But the camera stopped rolling for an hour or so last month when Gray was told to investigate a room in a Kirkuk home that members of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment were searching for contraband.

She was called in because the men of the household said a sick woman was inside and refused to allow the male soldiers to enter. Gray, armed and in full battle gear, entered the room expecting trouble. But she didn’t find any weapons.

Instead, a young Iraqi woman was lying on the concrete floor, struggling to give birth.

“They told [the Iraqi men] I was a doctor, so they’d let me in,” she said in a telephone interview Monday while explaining the Nov. 17 incident. But the three women inside — including the one giving birth — weren’t expecting to see an armed soldier coming through the door.

“I scared the heck out of them,” Gray said.

After surveying the situation, Gray set her weapon aside and took off her helmet to show the women she was one of them. “They were surprised,” she said. “And they don’t see a lot of blond hair.”

Meanwhile, the baby was ready to be born.

“By the time I sat down next to her, she had almost pushed the baby through,” Gray said.

But the mother, giving birth in the room because the family was too poor to seek aid at an Iraqi hospital, was badly bleeding and having trouble expelling the placenta.

The other two Iraqi women, who had no medical training and didn’t speak English, obviously needed help, Gray said. So, through a shouted conversation with the translator on the other side of the door, she preceded to take out the afterbirth.

Gray has no formal medical training, other than what soldiers receive at basic training. But she gave birth three years ago to a son, Tyler. And she’s always been interested in the medical profession.

“If I didn’t have to go to school for so long, I’d probably be a doctor,” she said.

But being a female soldier was more than enough this time.

“She was in a lot of pain,” Gray said of the new mother. So she convinced the women to let her call in a male medic to help. Spc. Anthony Duarte was then brought in to provide care and administer a painkiller.

Gray, who said she’s seen plenty of death in her stint in Iraq, got to hold Zuher Ahmed Mohowed for a few minutes before the soldiers left.

“Sometimes, it appears that nobody appreciates what we’re doing,” Gray said. “To be able to do something like that and help these people … it just reminds you that we’re all human.”

Gray said the soldiers were told the family didn’t like Americans. At least they didn’t until the search-turned-medical rescue.

“We at least made a difference with this one family,” she said, “and probably the whole neighborhood. Word will spread.

“And this boy will have quite a story to tell. They’re going to tell him that the Americans came and helped deliver him.”

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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