In conjunction with the U.S. Army Europe's Office of the Command Surgeon, Regional Health Command Europe staff recently visited Ukraine to host a Basic Leadership Course for the some of the country's junior medical officers.

The focus of the week-long course was Army values, leadership, doctrine and troop leading procedures.

"We did basic instruction on trust, shared values and progressed to a role play exercises where they demonstrated what they learned," said Col. Sara Breckenridge-Sproat, RHCE Regional Nurse Executive. "We also had a NATO overview from a Hungarian officer; having a former Warsaw Pact country there was really important, not just to give perspective, but to give hope that change can happen."

The week culminated with a NATO leadership round table discussion where participants were able to ask representatives from Lithuania, Hungary, the United Kingdom and the United States, questions on a variety of topics.

Breckenridge-Sproat said that this training was an important part in continuing to build the RHCE partnership with Ukraine.

"As a clinician, we need to sustain our skills and really we learn from one another," she said. "And learning from each other in a classroom environment as well as a clinical environment is really a way to sustain us all into the future. Because of the current conflict there, they have acuity large number of very complex patients. Learning from each other is really so vital."

Ukraine has been an active contributor to the European-Atlantic security by deploying troops that work with peacekeepers from NATO and other partner countries. It is the only partner country that has contributed, at one stage or other, to all ongoing NATO-led operations and missions.

Relations between NATO and Ukraine date back to the early 1990s. Since 2014, in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, cooperation has been intensified in critical areas.

Ukraine has sought NATO's support in efforts to transform its Cold War legacy of massive conscript forces into smaller, professional and more mobile armed forces, able to meet the country's security needs and to contribute actively to stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond, according to Breckenridge-Sproat.

Because of this, the Ukrainian partnership is vital and the Basic Leadership Course is just one of many partnership events RHCE has been a part of.

"There is always training going on in the Joint Multinational Training Group -- Ukraine, in Yavriv," Breckenridge-Sproat said. "There we do combat life saver and combat Medic training. Several months ago we introduced eight high-end trauma simulators into the Ukraine military medical system and now we are starting to see those used in trauma training."

In February, a team consisting of six medical specialists from USAREUR and RHCE embedded with a Canadian medical team organized by the Canadian-Ukrainian Foundation. The group partnered with Ukrainian Army Surgeons at the Kiev Military Hospital for a Surgical Master Class focusing on Facial Reconstructive Surgery and Hand Surgery.

During the Surgical Master Class, the team examined wounded Ukrainian Soldiers in order to select appropriate cases for collaborative surgeries. Forty surgeries were scheduled, which included patients who have recently sustained serious trauma from shrapnel and gunshot wounds as well as severe upper extremity trauma.

Both the surgical Master Class and the Basic leader course provided an opportunity for RHCE staff to work with allies and partner nations -- which contributes to strengthening our alliance as part of the NATO Collective Defense as well as develops junior leaders and clinicians, Breckenridge-Sproat said.

"Building confidence in health professionals and commanders provides flexibility and combat effectiveness of combat units," said Breckenridge Sproat. "Today our cooperation with Ukraine is at a high level. In the future we hope to continue training opportunities for medical professionals and the exchange of experience, based on our common internal and external challenges."

The Basic Leadership Course received positive feedback from the Ukrainian Soldiers who participated. They liked the open forum discussion and the content presented and how it was presented.

One participant said that they appreciated "that the instructors did not attempt to show or say that America is better than the Ukraine."

Breckenridge-Sproat says she has visited and worked with the Ukrainian military many times.
"I am always so impressed when I visit Ukraine by what a sovereign, stoic, prideful, independent nation Ukraine is. They are firmly committed to democracy."

She went on to say, "this is one of the most meaningful things I have ever done. It is pretty magical to be given the opportunity to play a part in this amazing country's transformation, while contributing to junior leaders and their readiness for the future."

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