Military doctors and veterinarians from the Chilean Army, U.S. Army, U.S Air Force and the Uruguayan Navy gathered in Santiago, Chile, for a Vector Control Practices seminar hosted by the Chilean Army Health Command and sponsored U.S. Army South.

The primary focus for this professional military to military engagement is to keep Soldiers, service
members and civilians safe in a variety of austere environments during wartime, humanitarian disaster response and peace keeping mission. The importance of identifying vector borne diseases early such as malaria, dengue fever, zika and others plays an important role in military planning and operations.

U.S. Army South's Maj. Alejandro Bonilla, an Environmental Science Officer with the Army Chief of Staff -- Medical, explains that the threat of vector borne illnesses are very serious issues. A malaria
outbreak can kill more people than any other disease. The Department of Defense is constantly
proactive and is always looking for ways to improve in identifying and dealing with vector borne
illnesses before a potential pandemic or outbreak occurs.

"Sharing best practices and lessons learned with our military partners in this type of forum is important because we all bring a wealth of knowledge which strengthens our interoperability," said Bonilla. "We always benefit from these exchanges because each military has different methods and practices, so we all learn something new which makes our militaries stronger in the area of force health protection."

Throughout the week, between presentations and lectures, soldiers from the Chilean Army Veterinary Service had the opportunity to apply what they learned during several practical pre-deployment risk assessment exercises in which they evaluated potential vector borne diseases. Together, they analyzed a variety of data and developed a list of recommendations for the best course of action to mitigate health risks.

"The course information is very useful because here in Chile we have several vectors that we are aware of and it's important to help us identify and prevent a possible outbreak. It also will help us identify the development of any new disease," said Maj. Alex Betzhold, a veterinary advisor and planner from the Chilean Army Veterinary Service. "It's interesting to learn about new field sampling techniques and the process for analyzing that information and then taking appropriate measure to protect our military forces," he added.

Presenters included U.S. Army Veterinarians from U.S. Army Medical Command, a medical
doctor and infectious disease specialist from the U.S. Air Force Defense Institute for Medical
Operations, DIMO, and a medical doctor and infectious disease specialist from the Uruguayan Navy.

As the Army Service Land Component to U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Army South works closely with partner nation Armies and Defense Forces in Central, South America and the Caribbean to strengthen security
cooperation throughout the western hemisphere.