By By Sgt. Terysa M. King, U.S. Army Africa Public AffairsJuly 18, 2013
From the effects of malaria during World War II to medical problems in current deployments, Soldier health has become a great factor in unit effectiveness. With the increase of Soldiers from different militaries deploying to combat and field environments, the need for preventive medicine and field sanitation teams are in higher demand.
At the request of the Malawi Defense Force, two U.S. personnel traveled to the MDF Headquarters in Lilongwe, Malawi to conduct an Environmental Health and Field Sanitation military to military event June 19-21.
During the exercise, 15 MDF soldiers observed how the U.S. Army conducts preventive medicine and field sanitation risk reduction strategies to ensure that soldiers remain as healthy as possible in a combat/field environment.
Maj. Sidney Cobb, an environmental science, engineering and force health protection officer for U.S. Army Africa, said the MDF does not have Field Sanitation Teams (FST), and they expressed interest in developing their own team certification program based on the Army Medical Department's Center and School FST Certification Course.
"History has revealed that casualties caused by disease and non-battle injuries (DNBI) have a serious impact on military operations. The role of the FST is to aid the unit commander in protecting the health of the command by advising and assisting in the duties essential to reducing DNBI. The success of operations is directly related to how well DNBIs are prevented through effective preventive medicine measures in the units," Cobb, an Atlanta, Ga. native, said.
The course had 15 lessons ranging from the medical threat to field forces, personal hygiene and PMM, water supply, food service sanitation, waste disposal, management of arthropods and prevention of heat and cold injuries.
Despite not having an official FST, Cobb said the MDF showed they had a basic understanding of the concepts of field sanitation and preventive medicine.
Second Lt. Jessica A. Morley, an environmental science and engineering officer, Charlie Company, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, said the training created positive global relations, and she was also impressed with the MDF's current practices.
"I believe we were able to introduce different perspectives while pressing the importance of preventive medicine measures in the planning process. It was interesting conversing with the MDF and seeing how similar we are," Morley, a Bemidji, Minn. native, said.
Cobb also agreed with good global relations, the event allowed USARAF and the RAB to gain valuable interaction with the MDF.
"My key take away from this experience is that all military forces have to some extent, ways of preventing DNBIs and can mutually benefit from sharing this knowledge," Cobb said.
The forerunner of the present field sanitation team (malaria control details) was established during World War II when it became apparent that the control of malaria and other arthropod-borne diseases was beyond the capability of existing engineer and medical units, commanders of company-size units.