CAMP DODGE, Iowa - A medical team from the North Macedonia Army trained with the Vermont Army National Guard in Iowa July 29-Aug. 13 as part of the State Partnership Program.
The mission of the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program is “to support the security cooperation objectives of the United States.” The achievement of that goal brings many follow-on effects that benefit both partners in the SPP relationship.
In September 2021, U.S. Army Maj. Kimberly Holbrook, a physician assistant and the commander of Charlie Company, 186th Brigade Support Battalion, Vermont Army National Guard, and her executive officer, U.S Army Capt. Michael Kelley, traveled to North Macedonia to observe and offer guidance to a recently formed medical company in the North Macedonia Army with a similar mission to theirs.
“We discussed with leadership at North Macedonia brigade-level and the medical company-level the possibility of attaching a small medical team with us for annual training,” Holbrook said. ”It would give the Soldiers from North Macedonia the opportunity to get realistic medical training, expose them to the military decision-making process, and movement of wounded across the battlefield.”
That opportunity materialized at the Sustainment Training Center at Camp Dodge in Iowa. The State Department, the State Partnership Program, and the North Macedonia brigade signed off on the medical team joining Charlie Company during annual training.
“The North Macedonia Army Soldiers fully integrated into Charlie Company, 186th BSB, with each Soldier assigned a role comparable to their position in the North Macedonian Army,” Holbrook said. “This allowed full access to realistic medical training, MDMP, and evacuation of wounded. With the exception of night driver training under night vision goggles, the MKD Soldiers did everything hand in hand with our team, to include hot/cold loads with the UH-60 Black Hawks.”
The intensive training included three days of tissue training on suturing, stapling and airway management, using pig feet, lungs and trachea.
“This allowed the North Macedonia Army Soldiers and medics to use real tissue to perform advanced lifesaving interventions,” Holbrook said.
Participants also trained on medical logistics, behavioral health, ground evacuation, and lab and radiological procedures.
Holbrook discussed future training with North Macedonia Army leadership.
“If we attempted two missions a year, that would be helpful,” she said. ”It would help to cross-level knowledge and allow for a more robust relationship, especially as North Macedonia nears their medical company evaluation with NATO in 2026.”
Vermont and North Macedonia began their state partnership in 1993. The relationship has included collaborative events in Europe and the United States, including a shared deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. The relationship between the two partners has expanded to include civic and economic opportunities for cooperation, including state government.