MANZINI, Swaziland (Aug. 5, 2009) -- In partnership with the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Army Africa kicked off a two-week medical exercise with an opening ceremony at USDF headquarters in Swaziland, Monday.

The USDF co-director Lt. Col. Moses Zwane thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and extended a warm welcome to the U.S. servicemembers participating in the exercise.

"I am very pleased to be one of the MEDFLAG co-directors," Zwane said. "This exercise is the first of its kind in our kingdom."

MEDFLAG is a joint and combined military exercise led by U.S. Army Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to improve medical disaster preparedness and humanitarian assistance management.

The exercise will consist of three phases: classroom training; a mass casualty exercise; and humanitarian and civic assistance events, to include medical, dental and veterinary assistance to the people of Swaziland.

"We will be visiting a village in each of the four provinces in the Kingdom of Swaziland," said MEDFLAG co-director Army Lt. Col. Michael Money. "By partnering with the Department of Health here, who will accompany us out to the villages, we hope to improve the quality of life. The Swazi military has been very accommodating and by the end of the exercise, we should be able to go home knowing we have made a difference in the lives of those we touched."

The U.S. and Swazi medical teams will travel to the Hhohho Village in the Zinyane province, Manzini Village in the Mafutseni province, Lubombo Village in the Maloma province and Shiselweni Village in the Mkhwakhweni province.

The U.S. Embassy Charge d' Affairs Sarah Morrison said that a year's worth of planning has gone into the exercise and the next two weeks will be pivotal in the relationship between the United States and Swaziland.

"I am confident that after these two weeks, we look forward to several more of these engagements between our two militaries," Morrison said. "I know we will all be flexible and by the end of the exercise we will have formed bonds of friendship, I am sure will last a lifetime."