U.S. and Lithuanian medical subject matter exchange promoted critical medical observations and discussions within the multinational military medical community during Exercise Iron Wolf at Gaižiūnai training area, near Kaunas, Lithuania, from May 10-15.
Iron Wolf, a national Lithuanian exercise, operates in conjunction with U.S. and NATO allies. The exercise drills joint defense tasks that facilitate integrated deterrence along the eastern flank. This year’s exercise enabled U.S. medical Soldiers to evaluate Lithuanian medical equipment and their medical teams in action.
U.S. Army Capt. Michal Poplawski, a field surgeon with 557th Medical Company Area Support, shared his experience when observing and coordinating with Lithuanian medical counterparts.
“What the Lithuanians lack in funding, personnel, and equipment, they make up for it with their spirit and ingenuity,” Poplawski said. “They taught me ways to improvise in the field and think outside the box. Their equipment is a mix of older items and equipment from the late Soviet era, in addition to brand new NATO supplied weapons and gear. The Lithuanians quickly learn to incorporate the new with the old. While we have experience using NATO equipment, their ability to retrofit older equipment to make it useful in modern combat situations is impressive. For example, they can take an 80's ambulance and incorporate modern medical equipment to make sure nothing usable is wasted.”
Familiarization with medical practices and equipment fosters interoperability among U.S. and NATO partners. Global Health Engagement activities enable critical problem-solving and medical synchronization so U.S. and allied partners quickly react, adapt, and overcome medical barriers when transitioning from competition to conflict.
“In attending numerous GHE activities, I have observed and worked with numerous NATO allies and partners on their specific equipment and standard operating procedures,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Bullock, a healthcare sergeant with 557th MCAS. “This engagement provides me an understanding of what I can expect and allows me to easily integrate onto a multinational task force.”
GHE activities offer critical opportunities to build a medically ready force, reduce risks to the warfighter, and foster the mission-capable status of partner nations' forces. Ongoing synchronization and communication enables U.S. and allied forces to rapidly respond to disasters or outbreaks, and partner in the fight against global threat networks. Through these critical engagements, U.S. Army Europe and Africa secures the framework for strong deterrence and defense posture on both continents.
“I think multinational exchanges such as Iron Wolf are extremely important to the success of NATO, and our allies in general,” Poplawski added. “Besides exchanging ideas and developing cohesion, multinational exercises are the best place to test new theories and make mistakes. As the saying goes, ‘the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in battle.’ Hands-on observation and coordination benefits all parties involved and solidifies our alliance.”