MUNICH, Germany – Leaders from the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland-based 1st Area Medical Laboratory strengthened military-to-military relationships with medical professionals at the German Biodefense Conference at the German Army Microbiology Institute, Oct. 11 - 15.
More than 250 military science officers and scientists from 41 different nations participated in the conference where 1st AML leaders forged stronger partnerships with personnel from Germany, Czech Republic, Georgia, France and the United Kingdom.
The week-long conference focused on a wide variety of medical topics from outbreak response and management to vector-borne and zoonotic diseases.
“The 1st AML team was invited by the German Bundeswehr Medical and Biological Reconnaissance and Verification team to discuss deployable laboratory operations and demonstrate the portable class III biosafety cabinet or Glovebox,” said Maj. Jang-woo Lee, PhD, the 1st AML chief of Endemic Disease and Biological Warfare Assessment.
An Operation Enduring Freedom veteran who is originally from South Korea, Lee said 1st AML leaders discussed future training opportunities with the U.S. Army Europe-Africa Surgeon Cell. The command is also coordinating with the institute where the biodefense conference was held.
“The 1st AML and German Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology are already coordinating bilateral training opportunities in the near future,” said Lee.
Maj. Christine E. Hulseberg, PhD, the senior science officer at the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate – Georgia in Tbilisi, Georgia, met with 1st AML leaders during the conference.
Hulseberg previously served with 1st AML and she knows the value the command can bring to any area of operations.
The senior science officer said 1st AML’s Biological Threat Assessment Team can assist allies with detecting and identifying a long list of pathogens of concern across the region. A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Hulseberg deployed with the 1st AML to Camp Humphreys, South Korea, in support of the COVID-19 response in 2020.
“One of the most important but underappreciated strengths of the Biological Threat Assessment Team is the team-based approach they rely upon for strategizing testing plans and interpreting results,” said Hulseberg. “It’s really powerful and adaptive and draws upon the multi-disciplinary backgrounds of the infectious disease physicians, microbiologists, laboratory technicians and veterinary pathologists who make up that team.”
Soldiers from 1st AML perform surveillance, laboratory testing and health hazard assessments of CBRN, occupational, environmental and endemic disease threats around the world.
Col. Dennis M. Sarmiento, MD, the deputy command surgeon for U.S. Army Europe-Africa, said 1st AML brings critical capabilities to the theater.
“In competition and conflict, the 1st AML provides unique expertise and far-forward capabilities to enable the lethality and protect the readiness of USAREUR-AF forces,” said Sarmiento. “Nested under theater strategic efforts, 1st AML capabilities to sense and respond to emerging hazards and threats can greatly enhance joint and coalition operations and exercises.”
Sarmiento added that partnerships are the key to success in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, which covers 50 countries and territories, including Europe, Russia and Greenland.
“Building partnerships and strengthening relationships are strategic lines of effort in the EUCOM AOR, and the military medical community remains a key enabler to building trust, developing capabilities and enhancing interoperability among allies and partners,” said Sarmiento, a New York City native who has deployed to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The one-of-a-kind U.S. Army laboratory has deployed often to support military operations, including the 2014-2015 effort to contain the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Soldiers from 1st AML also served in seven different overseas locations to support the COVID-19 response, including U.S. military hospitals in Germany, South Korea and Japan.
The 1st AML is part of the Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based 44th Medical Brigade and the 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier all hazards formation.
“The German Biodefense Conference was a great opportunity to build stronger partnerships across the region,” said Col. Matt Grieser, the commander of 1st AML. “We look forward to future exercises to support U.S. Army Europe-Africa, and further collaboration and training with the German Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology and other partners in the region. By leveraging our collective expertise, we can better protect our shared interests.”