DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti - Several Soldiers and Airmen from Kentucky National Guard medical units joined together to offer their expertise to the military medical staff at the Ah-Bashir Military Hospital March 29-April 4 as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program.

Several times a year Kentucky Guard members visit the small African country building rapport and sharing training opportunities with residents.

"Any time you can work with other countries, build meaningful relationships and train together is important," said Air Force Lt. Col. Brian McMorrow, medical plans and operation officer, 123rd Medical Group. "Not only do we have the partnership with Djibouti, but having a presence on the African continent is of real strategic value."

While there, the director or the hospital and Kentucky Guard members planned a two-day mass casualty simulation that would test the staffs' responses to many patients and to test if the procedures already put in place would be sufficient.

"This was really about getting to know one another and for us to observe where the Djiboutians were with their planning," added McMorrow. "I was very impressed with how far along they were."

The director of the hospital had been waiting for this opportunity to work with his American counterparts.

"The exchange helped me to start this exercise that we have spent a year preplanning," said Col. Madian Mohamamed Said, medical doctor and director of the Ah-Bashir Military Hospital.

The mass casualty training was intended to push the staff at the hospital and test the procedures that had been set in place by Said and his staff.

"We take for granted how our medical process and training work, said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Moore, with the Kentucky Medical Detachment. "The Djiboutians are in the early stages of what we train on every day and have made our standard operating procedures."

During the exercise, Moore observed the way the patients were received and evaluated by the hospital staff. If he saw anything that they could do better, he would interject and show them a different way to handle the patient. He showed them how to check for injuries from head to toe, techniques on how to move the patient from stretchers or gurneys to the beds as well.

All of which, the Djiboutian doctors and nurses soaked up eagerly.

"It's really important things that we learned from them, said the doctor and 2nd Lt. Agueh Ismael. "Some things new we didn't know; it was a great experience for us."

Working together helped each country see how similar each country does his or her jobs and gave each person a chance to learn from the other.

"We were able to see similarities in their administrative process for accountability as well as to what were their strengths and weaknesses in their medical proficiency," said Moore.

After the two days of flooding the staff with simulated injured patients and putting them through the high levels of stress, both sides took away a lot from the exercise and garnered newfound respect for each other.

"Getting to have hands-on training with the Djiboutian military shows both sides that we're on common ground," said Moore. "Their motivation and engagement with our Guardsmen were very impressive."

Overall the experience and multicultural interaction benefited both sides and laid the building blocks for more opportunities for both countries to add on to this training.

Having a chance to interface with American professionals was a very positive experience in the hospital leaders eyes.

"The importance of this is the chance to learn from them (Kentucky Guard members) and see their procedures and the assessment of the training," Said remarked. "In this exchange, what you are looking for is how to develop right procedures in medicine."

"It (the training) was rich because we were all there in the field together," Said added.

Those from Kentucky echoed that same sentiment.

"Our specific mission allowed us to share our knowledge base on disaster response and, hopefully, make a real impact in Djibouti's ability to save lives if the need should arise," said McMorrow. "There is much more we could work on with them and I look forward to building on what we accomplished."

The Kentucky National Guard State Partnership Program has been successfully building relationships for more than 20 years with both Ecuador and more recently, the country of Djibouti. The goal of SPP is to link Kentucky Guard members up with counterparts from a partner country for a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.