WARSAW, Poland – Leaders from the U.S. Army’s only deployable medical field laboratory recently met with medical officials and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear experts from the Polish Armed Forces.
The command team from the 1st Area Medical Laboratory visited Poland in support of the U.S. Army Europe-Africa Surgeon Cell’s regional engagement efforts.
During the week-long visit, 1st AML leaders toured the Polish Epidemiological Response Center and Military Institute for Chemistry and Radiolog. Both Polish organizations have similar missions to the 1st Area Medical Laboratory.
The 1st AML leaders also toured the laboratory facilities at the Polish Military Institute of Medicine - National Research Institute in Warsaw, Poland, and the biological and chemical labs at the Military Preventive Medicine Center in Modlin, Poland.
Headquartered on Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the 1st Area Medical Laboratory identifies and evaluates health hazards through unique medical laboratory analyses and rapid health hazard assessments of nuclear, biological, chemical, endemic disease, occupational and environmental health threats.
From Australia and South Korea to Canada and Germany, the 1st AML works with allied forces around the world. The 1st Area Medical Laboratory is part of the 44th Medical Brigade and 20th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, Explosives (CBRNE) Command, the U.S. military’s premier multifunctional all hazards formation.
American Soldiers and U.S. Army civilians from the 20th CBRNE Command take on the world’s most dangerous hazards in support of joint, interagency and allied operations.
Lt. Col. Nick Nussdorfer, the force health protection officer in the Office of the Command Surgeon for U.S. Army Europe-Africa, said 1st AML brings one-of-a-kind capabilities that increase interoperability with allies and partners.
“U.S. Army Europe-Africa appreciates the force health protection expertise that 1st AML provides the theater,” said Nussdorfer.
Maj. Suzanne E. Mate, the chief of Chemical Threat Assessment for 1st Area Medical Laboratory, said meeting with allies helps to keep NATO ready for any contingency.
“It’s better to know your partners before you have to work together in a high consequence situation. We learned the strengths in different mobility platforms for laboratories and the capabilities within fixed scientific institutions to maintain standards and currency in chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) investigations,” said Mate.
“This knowledge is invaluable when determining how to move a sample quickly and efficiently to characterize a suspected CBR threat when airlift resources are constrained or country treaties prevent movement activities,” said Mate.
A graduate of George Washington University, Mate has served in the U.S. Army for 15 years as both an enlisted and commissioned Soldier and completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Health. Mate, a Medical Service Corps officer who served on a response team during the 2015 – 2017 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, said the visit helped to forge stronger ties with 1st AML's Polish counterparts.
“We gained an understanding for our NATO partners’ focus on biomedical and CBR topics unique to their geographic region,” said Mate. “In addition, by touring their biomedical and CBR institutions, we gained knowledge for resources to process environmental samples, which enables our scientists to discuss procedural options to investigate suspected threats.”
Mate said the 1st Area Medical Laboratory invited their Polish counterparts to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and Fort Detrick, Maryland, to see their facilities.
Col. Matthew J. Grieser, the commander of 1st Area Medical Laboratory, said the visit was an example of how his one-of-a-kind command supports alliance partners around the world.
“It was a great opportunity to meet our Polish counterparts and to learn from one another,” said Grieser, a native of Mulino, Oregon, who has deployed to Afghanistan four times and Iraq five times and served in Haiti, Panama and New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.
“We intend to continue to strengthen this relationship with our Polish counterparts,” said Grieser. “Poland is a great ally and it was an honor to visit our counterpart organizations.”
Lt. Col. Łukasz Krzowski, the Polish Armed Forces coordinator for the visit, said collaboration is the key to success in high stakes CBRN missions.
Krzowski said the visit introduced unit tasks, capacities and capabilities in biodefense and preventive medicine, adding that it also helped to define areas for field detection and identification of naturally occurring or intentionally released infectious diseases as well as chemical or radiological hazards.
A former soldier of the Epidemiological Response Centre (ERC) of the Polish Armed Forces, Krzowski is assigned to the Biodefense Laboratory, Biomedical Engineering Centre, in The Military University of Technology and still collaborates with the ERC in the areas of biodefense and preventive medicine.
“This visit will start collaboration in biodefense and other hazards in the chem or rad area. That means our future collaboration activities will increase our knowledge and procedures and lead to improved areas of interoperability between our nations,” said Krzowski.