CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea – Eighth Army’s 65th Medical Brigade hosted the 73rd Annual 38th Parallel Healthcare Training Symposium here, Nov. 6–8, to strengthen relationships between the Republic of Korea and U.S. medical personnel and build proficiency for medical practitioners stationed throughout the Pacific region.
“This was originally created during the Korean War in 1951 by a group of physicians that were working in Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals that decided they needed to share the latest medical advances and other unique healthcare issues here in Korea,” Col. Lee Burnett, commander of the 65th Medical Brigade, said. “The purpose is exactly what it was, just now, 73 years later. What we do is get together all the docs, nurses, specialty corps officers, vets, and dentists and share the latest medical advances as well as talk about healthcare issues that are unique to Korea.”
This year’s theme, “Battlefield of the Future”, focuses on innovations in healthcare concepts, procedures and equipment, their application in the Army of 2030, and how they will impact healthcare support on the Korean peninsula.
“The importance of the mission on the peninsula, the way the battlespace is changing both in the present and in the future and how we must continue to adapt in order to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Capt. Patrick McFadden, officer in charge of Veterinarian Services Alaska, Public Health Command Pacific, said. "This is an excellent opportunity for participants to gain a different perspective, to learn from others' mistakes, failures and successes and to learn how to support the warfighter in a way, which better enables us to be more successful and more lethal."
The event also offered opportunities to discuss future training and integration of best practices and procedures between ROK and U.S. medical personnel.
“The partnership that you have with the ROK Army here is really about interoperability and integration,” Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Laragione, senior enlisted advisor for the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, said. “The great thing that we do at the MCOE is training international partners in some of our MOS (military occupational specialty) and AOC (areas of concentration) producing courses and it’s also interoperability in getting to know some of our counterparts and partners, but it’s not the same because it's training and education versus working here day to day and training here in a field environment.”
In addition to discussing future training, the conference offered an opportunity to identify unique challenges in the Korean Theater of Operations and develop methods to address shortcomings.
“One of the greatest defeats in U.S. Army history was on this peninsula; an entire regimental combat team was defeated at the Chosin Reservoir not that far from here,” McFadden said. “If we fail to adapt to operate in artic and cold weather, mountainous and high-altitude environments, we will continue to struggle in those types of engagements. It’s important to understand how our equipment works, how our tactics, techniques and procedures need to be altered within cold weather operations and how the operational picture changes in those volatile, uncertain and complex environments.”
As the symposium closed, attendees gained a fresh perspective on the mission of personnel stationed in Korea and throughout the Pacific to support the warfighter and ensure that they are adequately trained to assist with future medical practices that may emerge, all while maintaining combat readiness.
“It’s just good to hear when Lt. Gen. Burleson spoke the other day about why it’s important to fight tonight and be ready,” Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Price, senior enlisted advisor for 65th Medical Brigade, said. “We are here and we’re not deployed, but we’re forward stationed as a medical brigade here, so it’s important to have all our senior leaders here and to have a shared understanding of the mission set, so we can all partner across the globe to ensure we’re delivering the best healthcare and the best partnership with the ROK Army.”