South African and US military members team up for Shared Accord

By Master Sgt. Dave ThompsonAugust 4, 2022

RICHARDS BAY, South Africa—A team of U.S. Army Soldiers, from the New York Army National Guard, U.S. Army Reserve and Southern European Task Force, Africa, partnered with medical professionals with the South African National Defense Force to provide medical care to about 3,000 South Africans in the Richards Bay area during MEDREX 2022-South Africa.

MEDREX is a medical training exercise and part of the larger Exercise Shared Accord, a joint and bilateral training exercise taking place in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province from July 11 to 27. Planned and executed by the United States Army Southern European Task Force, Africa, MEDREX allows military medical personnel from the U.S. Army and their African Partners to exchange medical practices, procedures and techniques that build and strengthen treatment capabilities, resulting in medical assistance to citizens in rural communities and lasting relationships between the medical professionals.

"This has been one of the best experiences in my military career,” said Col. Martin Ortiz, a New York Army National Guard doctor who took part in the exercise. “The people here are very kind and loving and we got a chance to get to know them better and forge lasting friendships through our collaborative work. It’s been hugely rewarding and I look forward to coming back.”

A great deal of planning and coordination had to be done to successfully execute the medical readiness exercise, said Major Brian Baglin, a New York Army National Guard Medical Service Corps officer.

Working with the South African Military Health Services and the U.S. Embassy, the medical teams, which consisted of dentists, ophthalmologists, veterinarians, medical doctors and nurses, treated patients at six clinics throughout the KZN region. During the three-week exercise, the teams provided medical services to nearly 3,000 people and treated over 600 dental patients. The veterinarian teams vaccinated some 5,000 dogs and cats against rabies and performed over 60 spay and neuter procedures.

Maj. Martin Lesenyeho, a SANDF medical officer, said the mission was successful and the Americans worked well with their counterparts.

“The U.S. military has been incredibly professional and pleasant to work with. This is my first time working on this exercise with the U.S. military, but I look forward to working with them in future exercises,” Lesenyeho said.

Other components of Shared Accord included New York Army National Guard military police and infantry Soldiers conducting tactical exercises with their SANDF counterparts and a segment called Judicious Activation where the East African Response Force supported SANDF with tactical mission planning techniques.

"Overall, the mission was a huge success not only due to our ability to develop a carefully crafted plan through critical and creative thinking, but because we were also able to quickly adapt and make modifications as the situation evolved." Baglin said.

The exercise concluded 27 July with a closing ceremony that featured a sky diving demonstration, an anti-ambush response scenario and a helicopter casualty evacuation among others.