By Tish Williamson, Director of Communications, Health Readiness Center of ExcellenceJune 3, 2019
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas - A South Korean delegation, led by a former international student trained at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Health Readiness Center of Excellence, or AMEDDCS HRCoE, visits JBSA.
It has been over two decades since Brigadier General Myoung-ok Kwon of the Republic of Korea, or ROK, Army was an International Military Student, or IMS, at the HRCoE in what is now known as the Captains Career Course, but she still has fond memories of the experience.
Kwon, who attended training at the HRCoE from July to December in 1997, is currently the Superintendent for the Korea Armed Forces Nursing Academy. Through an interpreter she said, "When I knew I was going to travel abroad for business, I was looking forward to visiting (Fort Sam Houston) because I have good memories of my time here."
Today, the HRCoE trains over 220 international students from 54 different allied and partner nations mainly through the International Military Education and Training, or IMET, program. The IMET program provides U.S. government funds to members of foreign militaries to take classes at U.S. military facilities. IMET is designed to assist foreign militaries receive the training, regardless of the country's financial ability. ROK IMS training, however, is funded entirely by the Republic of Korea through the Foreign Military Sales program with the Department of Defense.
These programs, and associated training, bolster foreign relationships with the United States as their soldiers learn about our military's standards and policies related to materiel, leadership, doctrine, training, education, personnel, facilities and organizational structure to foster democratic values in their members. These partnerships help better develop current and future capabilities and improve standardization and interoperability between the U.S. and our allies and partners.
Most of the courses available to IMS at the HRCoE are categorized as Professional Military Education with a focus on leader development like the Basic Officer Leadership and Captains Career Courses; public health courses like Preventative Medicine and Veterinary Food Inspection Specialist Courses; or combat medicine training like the Combat Medic, Trauma Nursing Core and Combat Casualty Care Courses.
Oscar Ramos, who has been the Director, International Programs Division responsible for the International Military Student Office, at the HRCoE since 2001 noted that 84 of the over 380 courses taught at the CoE are also available through international partnerships.
Ramos explained, "When Brigadier General Kwon was a student in what is now the Captains Career Course we only had about 48 courses available to the international military community under the Security Assistance Training Program; now we have over 80 resident courses available and will continue to expand opportunities, based on emerging interests by participating countries."
ROK Army Maj. Jisun Lee recently attended the Principles of Military Preventative Medicine course at the CoE and graduated May 17. Lee an OBGYN doctor and Director of the Health Promotion Center at the Armed Forces Daejeon Hospital located in Daejeon, Korea, is responsible to provide basic preventative medicine care for her patients.
"The course was really helpful; I learned a lot," said Lee. "There was a lot of curriculum that I had not studied before like entomology, occupational health, environmental health, radiation, epidemiology; so much. I think it was advantageous for me to attend because in Korea we don't have a structured preventative medicine course."
Kwon also believes she was placed at an advantage after completing her IMS training as a captain with the CoE. Upon returning to Korea more than 22 years ago, she put her training to use when she was assigned to the Korean Armed Forces Medical School as an instructor of nursing by designing an FTX scenario for her students.
"One of the subjects we learned while I was here was field training and we even conducted a field training exercise as part of the course," said Kwon. She described how the field training exercise, or FTX, consisted of a mass casualty scenario with treatment from the point of injury through the medical evacuation. She recalls developing superior teamwork with her classmates during the course, noting that success depended on working as a team on many classroom projects, during the FTX and during the class obstacle course exercise.
The general was surprised to learn that the HRCoE had stopped training students in a field environment nearly two decades ago but was happy to know that the CCC reinstated the FTX this year in an effort to ensure soldier lethality on the battlefield by increasing rigor in the classroom.
Kwon said, "It (the FTX) was very beneficial. Based on the knowledge and skills that I learned from here, along with my colleagues, I created a field training exercise course for the medical school."
She said her efforts to add field training to her curriculum were applauded and she was favorably recognized by the medical school at the time for being innovative and creating the new FTX program in Korea through the knowledge gained during her training at the HRCoE.
During the visit, the delegation received overview briefs on the HRCoE, international programs and preventative health. The group also received a demonstration at the Tactical Combat Medical Care Course and a tour of the emergency department and burn center at Brooke Army Medical Center and visited the Center for the Intrepid.
This visit by Kwon and the entire Korean delegation demonstrates how the IMS program creates long-lasting personal relationships and often includes men and women who later ascend to high ranks and become influential policymakers in their home countries. The program plays an important role in the United States' military-to-military relations with many of our strategic partners and allied nations to help understand the operational environment and critical capabilities each brings to the fight.
"What has impressed me during this visit is that there were just a few programs at the time that I studied here but now you have a lot of available programs," said Kwon. She believes that this is a very exciting time for the IMS partnership. "I plan to go back to Korea and evaluate and discuss with colleagues what kind of other programs and additional courses our nursing officers may benefit from."