Army medical researchers share ideas with U.S. Army Africa
June 29, 2009
VICENZA, Italy, Jun 26, 2009 - When Sgt. 1st Class Gerardo Navarro heard about a U.S. Army research center's need to upgrade its facility deep within remote jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo, he began taking notes.
Navarro, a senior noncommissioned officer assigned to U.S. Army Africa's directorate of Civil, Interagency and Military Affairs, was listening to a series of briefings offered by the U.S. Army's top experts on medical research and medical logistics in Africa, held in June 2009 at U.S. Army Africa headquarters in Vicenza, Italy.
Navarro listened intently as Col.l Jim Martin, from the U.S. Army Research, Institute of Infectious Disease, explained how researchers investigating monkey pox work under austere conditions in the aging Kole hospital.
"When he mentioned how the hospital and their laboratory could use refurbishing, that caught my interest," Navarro said. "It sounds like an important project that we could assist in, by working with the host nation or other organizations."
Martin was just one of several U.S. Army medical researchers who met June 25 to discuss how current medical missions in Africa can support U.S. Africa Command's (AFRICOM) efforts on the continent.
Col. Scott Gordon, commander of U.S. Army Medical Research Unit-Kenya (USAMRU-K), discussed his unit's efforts, which include initiatives to combat malaria, HIV and the flu in East Africa. Based in Nairobi, Kenya, USAMRU-K has been in Africa nearly four decades.
Officers from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, U.S. Army Medical and Materiel Command-Europe, and the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center also offered briefings on their units' ongoing programs.
With the formation of U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Army Africa, Army researchers are working to coordinate established missions with new initiatives on the continent. The meeting also allowed key leaders to discuss a way forward for Army research, medical missions and mentoring in Africa.
Learning more about Africa is one of U.S. Army Africa's guiding principles, said Colonel Alfonso Alarcon, the command's senior medical officer.
"This meeting exposes our staff to people with more experience on the continent of Africa, top experts in the areas of medical research and Army materiel support," Alarcon said. "We are learning from them as a staff, raising the ability of U.S. Army Africa to work toward our goal of brining positive change to the continent."
Medical Soldiers from the Vicenza Health Clinic, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and local Italian doctors from the Vicenza medical community also attended. "A bonus," Alarcon said.
"The more we share with potential partners, the better we will be in terms of future engagements," Alarcon said.