CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. – Three medical professionals from the Niger Armed Forces joined Indiana Army and Air National Guard medical professionals at Camp Atterbury during a State Partnership Program exchange.
The weeklong training focused on public health, mental health, basic sanitary needs, and additional topics that increase the overall health of any army.
“This visit has been very beneficial,” said Col. Maj. Garba Hakimi, a doctor and director of Niger army health services and social action. “It has given us an opportunity to share experiences and learn things that we can take back to our army, more specifically in the way we organize a patient during ground transportation.”
The mutually beneficial exchange required extensive planning.
“During my public health brief, it was evident that there are some very real and direct impacts from the work done here,” said Indiana Air National Guard Lt. Col. John Shepard, state public health officer, 181 Intelligence Wing. “During the brief, it was clear that they were receiving the information and actively identifying how they could implement some of the topics to their developing doctrine.”
Niger leaders said their army is projected to more than double in size relatively quickly, making public health a hot topic.
Hakimi found mental health and resilience training particularly interesting.
“These topics aren’t very developed in our army,” said Hakimi. “Resilience training is something we would like to further develop in our army; they gave us good information to do just that.”
This exchange would not have been possible without Sgt. Desiree Demercede, the exchange translator and member of the 38th Sustainment Brigade.
“Overall, I’m very thankful for the experience supporting this mission,” she said. “It’s not very often I get to engage in my native language, and it made me feel like I was back home.”
Demercede was born and raised in Switzerland and migrated to the United States with her family when she was a teenager. She lives in Danville now.
“It takes a lot of diverse talent and dedication to develop and implement an information exchange like this successful event,” said Brig. Gen. Justin Mann, director of the Indiana National Guard Joint Staff. “We have the right people in the right places and will continue to work hard to develop our relationship with our Niger partners.”
A safe, stable, secure and prosperous Africa is an enduring U.S. interest. The state partnership between the Indiana National Guard and Niger, signed in 2017, helps advance that goal.
The Indiana Guard has also partnered with Slovakia for more than 20 years.