By Maj. Matthew Fontaine, 1st Security Force Assistance BrigadeJune 27, 2019
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Combat medics from 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade attended a three-day long Military Tropical Medicine Course at Fort Benning, June 10-12, to learn about infectious diseases they may have to diagnose and treat in future operations.
The Navy Medicine Professional Development Center in Bethesda, Maryland provides the curriculum and instructors for a four-week long in-residence course for doctors and physicians assistants.
1st SFAB requested a condensed version to help the brigade's medics support their 12-Soldier combat advisor teams.
The course "prepares medical providers to do good medicine in austere environments dealing with pathogens that they just don't commonly see here," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kevin Taylor, Assistant Course Director and Army Liaison.
The small combat advisor teams are designed to train, advise and assist conventional foreign security force partners in remote locations where robust medical resources aren't always available. The medic is critical to the team's health and safety.
"Training on tropical disease and vectors is essential to prepare our medical personnel to treat and ideally prevent disease non-battle injury. This is especially crucial on small advisor teams where every person has a mission essential job," said U.S. Army Capt. Danielle Ivenz, 1st SFAB's Environmental Science and Engineering Officer.
Taylor, a doctor specializing in the prevention of infectious diseases, wants Soldiers to take the threat of in places like Asia or Africa seriously.
To drive home his point, Taylor told the class that mosquitos infected with the most dangerous strain of Malaria bite people in Africa ten or more times in a month and roughly a third of all military members who contract Malaria in a given year were serving in Africa when infected. Untreated, that most dangerous strain of Malaria can be fatal in just a few days.
Malaria isn't the only medical threat 1st SFAB's Soldiers may face. The course covered a number of diseases including Ebola, Dengue Fever, and Rabies. Instructors focused on a combat medic's ability to make a rapid diagnosis and request a medical evacuation if more advanced care is needed.
Students learned how to use a simple, field expedient diagnostic kit that uses a drop of blood to quickly diagnose a number of tropical infectious diseases. "The big question is does this person need to be moved or not," said Taylor.
1st SFAB's medics also learned how to build a health threat assessment with an emphasis on the diseases their teams are likely to encounter and how to prevent them. Taylor said the preventive medicine procedures and medicines given to Soldiers are highly effective when used properly.
"This course helped to identify what regionally specific illnesses and threats we may encounter in an unfamiliar environment. Through this training we can provide a better level of protection to our teams while away from higher level echelons of care," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Salman, Senior Medic for 3rd Squadron, 1st SFAB.