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LANDSTUHL, Germany — Enlisted soldiers in the medical field are working long hours with little chance of relief in sight, especially as the next group of medics prepares to head to Iraq, the Army Medical Command’s senior enlisted leader said Thursday.

Command Sgt. Maj. Sandra K. Townsend spoke with medical soldiers and with wounded troops Thursday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

“What they’re saying is they need more people,” Townsend said of medical troops during an interview Thursday.

Townsend also visited the Army hospitals in Würzberg and Heidelberg.

But medical troops aren’t likely to get any relief, she said.

Hospitals such as Landstuhl already are at 80 percent manning and must be bolstered with Reserve and National Guard troops to do their wartime mission, she said.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, she and Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. James B. Peake visited medical soldiers in Kuwait and Qatar. Most of the soldiers Townsend met in the Middle East are in Reserve units as well, she said.

The two leaders were unable to visit medical troops in Iraq, however, because President Bush’s visit made it difficult to get clearance, she said.

Townsend is Peake’s senior enlisted adviser and the top enlisted leader for nearly 27,000 medical troops around the world.

Townsend and Peake were to head back to the United States on Friday.

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