By Capt. Victor M. Guzman, U.S. Army Africa Public AffairsJune 24, 2014
N'DJAMENA, Chad (June 24, 2014) -- In partnership with the Chad Armed Forces, U.S. Army Africa and a team of Army reserve medical professionals conducted Medical Readiness Training Exercise 14-5 at the Hospital Military D'Instruction (HMI) in N'Djamena, Chad, June 2-12.
Army reserve health care providers from U.S. Army Medical Department's 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support) combined their knowledge and experience to work hand-in-hand with their Chadian counterparts. These included Army Professional Medical Command, Forest Park, Ga.; 75th Combat Support Hospital, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; 405th Combat Support Hospital, Hartford, Conn.; 407th Ambulance Company, Puerto Rico; and the 1493rd Medical Detachment - Combat Stress Control, Durham, N.C.
"It's interesting to work with Soldiers from other Army Reserve units because they come with different skill sets and experience," said Lt. Col. Sean Michael Siler, 1493rd Medical Detachment commander. "However, having a common curriculum did bring us all together as each of us brought strength to the team that we would not have had otherwise."
MEDRETE 14-5 was an opportunity to work with Chadian medical personnel on Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Advanced Trauma Life Support, and allowed both medical forces to teach each other how to handle different medical situations in two distinct environments.
"This exercise was intended to establish a relationship with the Chadian military medical team of doctors, nurses, surgeons and medics, and to learn to operate in a medical austere environment," said Col. Robert Nataloni, anesthesiologist with 405th CSH. "Initially, there was a language barrier, but after the first couple of days we developed a trust factor and they interacted more and were open to showing us their hospital and medical equipment."
U.S. medical personnel observed the great adaptability of the Chadian military doctors and how they dealt with most hardships. For example, during the exercise Chadian medical surgeons recommended to a local fisherman who was bitten by a hippopotamus that the best course of action would be to amputate his arm to prevent the spread of infection, but the fisherman rejected the medical advice.
"Cultural norms dictate the type of medical care," Siler said. "In the U.S., we want to treat patients, but in Chad other factors impact whether the patient will be treated or not such as the opinion of the family, of the tribe, and their ability to pay -- these are things that don't generally factor in the medical decisions in the United States."
Being in an austere environment exposed U.S. medical providers with opportunities to see and understand the challenges other countries face.
"This was a mind blowing experience for me," said Spec. Luis Candelaria, a combat medic with 407th Ambulance Company. "One of the experiences that impacted me most that I will never forget is the excitement in their eyes and faces when we shared our knowledge."
MEDRETE 14-5 was a beneficial exercise that brought together Chadian and U.S. Army medical professionals to foster cooperation while conducting medical specific tasks with a purpose that was twofold. First, to train Chadian medical providers on tactical combat casualty care skills, then to introduce advance topics such as advance trauma life support, trauma critical care and nursing and other medical topics that would benefit the Chadian medical personnel.
"It was an incredible and excellent professional experience," Nataloni said summing-up his experience. "I would do it again and strongly urge other physicians to take part in this type of exercise."