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This week’s European Spotlight shines on Army 1st Lt. Parker Hahn, a nurse at Landstuhl Medical Center, Germany, who was serving at Abu Ghraib when the prisoner abuse scandal broke:

Word has it that you play quite a few sports in your spare time.

For the hospital, I play basketball, softball and won the commander’s golf tournament. I played football two years ago but didn’t have a chance to get into it this year. Basketball’s the big one. We won the USAREUR championship last year.

So you must have played a lot of sports in high school and college?

In high school, you play everything because you’re in a school of only 200 kids from ninth through twelfth grades. You play all the sports. You play both ways in football. We took second at state in basketball. In college (at Radford University in Virginia), I did all the intramural and club stuff. I made the basketball team.

You made the varsity team?

I actually made the final cut for the Division I school but didn’t play because academics were a little more important to me than sitting on a bench.

You’ve also spent some time downrange. Where were you from January 2004 to January 2005?

Primarily, I was at the Abu Ghraib prison. I was part of the 53-person team — 53 give or take — that set up the first hospital there to treat the detainees. I was there until end of September. Then, I was involved with the travel nursing program of Iraq. I went to Camp Victory. I spent time at Baghdad in the international zone. I spent time at Balad at the Air Force hospital and then spent time at Mosul.

What was it like to be at Abu Ghraib amongst all the controversy, the photos, etc., with so much attention focused on the detainees and their treatment there?

In February, we started setting up at Abu Ghraib, and the stories broke in April, I believe. At that point of course, the frequency of attacks increased. It got bad. We had [mass casualties] of 120 and 109 patients. Mortars landed in the detainee camps. Our primary mission was to treat detainees. It was very frustrating because every news reporter that came through, every VIP that came through from all over these countries, the only thing they wanted to know was what we did with the abused prisoners. We’re like, “We haven’t even seen any abused prisoners since we’ve been here. There are none.” I never saw one the whole nine months I was there … It was very frustrating for my soldiers to have to witness all this, and the good didn’t get out about what we were doing.

What was the experience like for you?

To me, it was very rewarding because I treated what I guess you could call terrorist cell leaders, real bad guys. They came in hating us. They didn’t want anything to do with us. We would try to change dressings. They would swear and yell. And then, we would watch them over the weeks and months switch sides. They’d say, “Oh, you guys are good. You are very helpful.” They would give up names of bad guys and say, “I know where this person lives. I know where this weapons cache is.”

How did you deal internally with the fact that you were sometimes treating the enemy?

You can’t let the conflicting motivations influence your work. The way I dealt with it was I looked at everybody who came through that door as a medical challenge. They were hurt. They were wounded. We have to fix them — regardless of race, who they were, what they did.

Interview by Steve Mraz.

Army 1st Lt. Parker Hahn

Age: 25

Hometown: Glasgow, Mont.

Title: Registered Nurse, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany

Previous Title: Nurse at Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq

Europe readers: Know someone whose accomplishments, talents, job, hobby, volunteer work, awards or good deeds qualify them for 15 minutes of fame? How about someone whose claim to glory is a bit out of the ordinary — even, dare we say, oddball? Send the person’s name and contact information to news@mail.estripes.osd.mil.

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