MUNICH — American Soldiers from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory honed their skills with German military medical professionals at the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich, Germany, Feb. 7-11.
One U.S. Army microbiologist and four medical laboratory specialists from the 1st AML trained at the institute with medical doctors, veterinary doctors, biologists and laboratory staff.
Hosted by the Department for Medical Bio-Reconnaissance and Verification at the institute, the training was the result of 1st AML leaders attending the German Biodefense Conference at the institute last October. More than 500 participants from 58 nations have participated in previous biodefense conferences at the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology.
The 1st Area Medical Laboratory is part of the 44th Medical Brigade and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. Department of Defense’s premier all hazards formation. From 16 bases and 19 states, 20th CBRNE Command Soldiers and civilians take on the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied partners.
Soldiers from 1st Area Medical Laboratory deploy as a unit or in task-organized teams to perform surveillance, laboratory testing and health hazard assessments of environmental, occupational, endemic disease and CBRNE threats to support force protection and Weapons of Mass Destruction missions.
Maj. Jang-woo Lee, PhD, the chief of Endemic Disease and Biological Warfare Assessment at 1st AML, said the week-long training event enabled the allies to learn from each other during realistic scenarios in a laboratory setting.
“The German Medical Bio-Reconnaissance and Verification Team and the 1st AML’s Biological Threat Assessment team have comparable lab employment operations as deployable field laboratories,” said Lee.
“The 1st AML team learned how their German counterparts respond to a hemorrhagic fever virus outbreak and operate the field laboratory to provide the diagnostic testing to support the host nation,” said Lee. “The knowledge and skillsets learned from the training will increase the mission readiness and the core competency of the 1st AML.”
Originally from South Korea, Lee became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2012. “I decided to fulfill my sense of patriotism by serving my nation in the Army as an Army Medical Department officer and was commissioned in the rank of captain as a microbiologist in 2014,” said Lee.
According to Lee, the training leveraged the collective real-world experience of the trainers at the German institute.
“The highlight of the training event was the reality of the training scenarios,” said Lee. “The training scenarios by the trainers are all based on the real situational experiences from multiple overseas deployments of the Department for Medical Bio-Reconnaissance and Verification.”
Lt. Col. Kilian Stoecker, the head of the Department for Medical Bio-Reconnaissance and Verification at the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology, said the training strengthened the medical readiness of the allied nations.
“The training increased the capacity of the U.S. forces to react on outbreaks of high consequence pathogens,” said Stoecker. “The cooperation between the Department for Medical Bio-Reconnaissance and Verification and the 1st AML will enhance the readiness of both nation’s forces to react to biological threats.”
Stoecker said the institute welcomed the opportunity to train with the highly capable and motivated Soldiers from the one-of-a-kind U.S. Army laboratory.
“The highlight of the training event was the team spirit of the 1st AML team and to see how they quickly became adapted to the training scenario and they reacted to the various training challenges — and the perspective of future collaborations,” said Stoecker, who has worked at the institute since 2012. Stoecker deployed as a mobile laboratory team leader to West Africa during 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak.
During the same timeframe, the 1st Area Medical Laboratory also deployed to West Africa to support U.S. efforts to help contain the Ebola outbreak. 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 Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology has invited 1st AML Soldiers to return to the institute for a second bio-reconnaissance training event in April 2023.
Col. Matthew J. Grieser, the 1st Area Medical Laboratory commander, said the bilateral training event bolstered the partnership between the 1st AML and the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology. Grieser invited personnel from the Department for Medical Bio-Reconnaissance and Verification to visit his headquarters on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and see firsthand 1st AML’s Multifunctional Deployable Laboratories.
“Training events like this make both of our organizations better,” said Grieser, a seasoned leader from Mulino, Oregon, who has multiple deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and other contingency operations. “I thank the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology for hosting this valuable training event and look forward to seeing our German partners at our unit in the future.”