Ft Shafter, Hawaii --
Bangladesh’s Directorate General of Medical Services, Maj. Gen. M.D. Mahbubur Rahman and the commander of 18th Medical Command (DS), Maj. Gen. Michael Place hosted a COVID-19 lessons learned virtual knowledge exchange (VKE) with medical experts from the two partner nation’s military and U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Dhaka on January 27, 2020 via web video teleconference.
The VKE focused on respective COVID-19 best practices and experiences for each of the two nations. Partnership exchanges like these help to build and maintain an open and free communication through respectful and honest dialogue. 18th MEDCOM (DS) is not new to this type of knowledge exchange having recently completed one with the India Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services on the subject of high altitude and cold weather medicine.
Maj. Gen. Place explained, “When the pandemic closed down travel, we quickly shifted to a virtual medium to continue interacting with our allies and partners. Just recently we conducted a VKE about high altitude medicine with some of India’s most senior military medical subject matter experts with great success. The pandemic has encouraged us all to think differently on how we communicate and I anticipate we’ll have even more opportunities to work with our military medical colleagues across the globe.”
Place’s thoughts were matched by Bangladesh’s medical professionals’ interest.
Maj. Gen. M.D. Mahbubur Rahman opened the VKE by saying, “Behind every strong nation there is an Army there behind them. What’s the goal of military training, is that simulation of reality for trained soldiers that operate better when they are trained properly. As military doctors we face many casualties which will come because of lack of operational experience with this pandemic.” He closed his comments by expressing, “The knowledge gained by this session I believe will be used in practical grounds to improve our readiness.”
“During this pandemic, virtual knowledge exchanges with our allies and partners allow us to continue to discuss various military medicine topics and share information freely,” Place said. “More importantly, this ongoing professional dialogue and interaction demonstrates commitment, builds trust, and advances relationships. These events will allow us to respond more effectively to future real-world contingencies as coalition nations.”
The presentations covered a range of COVID-19 aspects from initial response planning to intensive care procedures and prototype equipment that were used during the pandemic. Brig. Gen. M.D. Masudul Alam Mazumder, a Sr. Intensivist & Head at Critical Care Center and Emergency & Casualty Center, Combined Military Hospital, in Dhaka even provided details regarding a prototype ventilator Bangladesh’s Army created for COVID patients when ventilators were in short supply internationally.
18th Medical Command (DS), Chief of Civil Affairs, Col. Matt Garrison explained the importance of VKEs for Ally and Partner nations. “Using virtual platforms allows us to build relationships and continue the momentum during the current COVID-19 protective posture environment, until in-person exchanges are available.”
The use of video teleconferencing allowed the two countries to share presentation slides and also record the video conference to reference at later times. 18th Medical Command (DS) plans to host several more VKEs in the near future and face to face when possible after the COVID pandemic is past.
“Bilateral engagements such as these support US national security policy and military strategy – a means to partner with other nations in order to achieve security cooperation objectives and build partner capacity through health-related activities and exchanges.” Said Garrison, “We are assisting our US partners to become recognized regional leaders and continue to select the US as their partner of choice in peacetime and in conflict.”
18th Medical Command (DS) focuses efforts on working within the INDOPACOM and USARPAC health security cooperation strategic initiatives as they assist to set the stage for optimal medical support to the US warfighter in partner nations, in contested or denied environments, or humanitarian aid and disaster relief situations. These VKEs directly influence these strategic narratives.
Maj. Gen. M.D. Mahbubur Rahman said in his final comments. “To prevent disease we should know the practices and the possible measures. With this view we have together we get to enlightened us with knowledge, shared our experience and to learn how to overcome our differences.”