By Sgt. 1st Class Eugene PomeroySeptember 22, 2009
MBABANE, Swaziland - Army Reserve Soldiers Col. Morgan M. Gray, the commander of the Medical Support Unit-Europe in Mannheim, Germany, and Capt. Charles A. Pastor, a medical doctor assigned to the MSU-E, recently took part in MEDFLAG 09, an exercise designed to share the Army's medical expertise with Swaziland military leaders and Ministry of Health officials.
MEDFLAG is a joint and combined military exercise led by U.S. Army Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command to improve medical disaster preparedness and humanitarian assistance management.
The three-phase MEDFLAG exercise, in addition to promoting medical and security cooperation between the U.S. and Swaziland militaries, also aimed to improve interoperability between Swaziland military and government ministries enhancing the Swazi's capabilities to respond to disasters and medical emergencies.
During the first phase, Gray and Pastor provided training on the military decision-making process, how to respond to disasters and pandemics, and demonstrated how inter-ministerial cooperation is essential in responding to disasters. Representatives from Swaziland's Ministries of Health, Agriculture, and the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force took part.
"They were very interested in the presentation, The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defense worked well during the pandemic influence table top exercise supporting the importance of inter-ministry coordination during disaster response." said Gray.
Swaziland just recently created a national disaster pandemic task force, and since the country recently had a cholera outbreak, which was a big challenge, the pandemic exercise was very relevant and helpful in further developing their capacity to manage medical emergencies.
Swaziland also has a tremendous challenge with HIV, and combined with tuberculosis, which is also prevalent in the country, many Swazis are considered at high risk during an influenza pandemic.
During phase two, Gray helped supervise and script the narration of the mass casualty exercise conducted by Swaziland military and first responders.
"We came up with a script to explain what all the actions were as they were occurring during the MASCAL," said Gray. "This event was observed by many U.S. and Swaziland dignitaries, and they were impressed by the rapid response and effective treatment and evacuation performed by the Swaziland first responders."
In phase three - the humanitarian civic action phase - veterinarians, dentists and other medical personnel went into each of Swaziland's four districts, setting up clinics in schools and treating animals at various sites.
"I've been to quite a few African countries before. It's a stark reality how these countries live." Gray said. "In some of the areas, they don't have much medical care, and many are still being seen by the local tribal doctor who uses the stuff that's been around for ages ... traditional methods and remedies with herbs."
The Ministry of Health is doing a tremendous job attempting to improve the health of the Swazi's with the resources it has and is grateful to the medical and humanitarian projects such as MEDFLAG 09 that provide some very helpful assistance, said Gray
During the two-week exercise, roughly 2,400 medical and dental patients were seen and treated during visits to the Swazi villages in each of the four regions of the country. At veterinary sites, nearly 10,500 animals received treatment.
Gray also supervised an outreach project to the Emmanuel Khayalethu orphanage in Motjane. Exercise participants donated more than $800 worth of food, supplies and toys for the orphanage.
"I guess the most rewarding thing was to see the children's faces. It was like Christmas in the summer time." Gray said. "I think it was a very productive exercise; all the participants gained from it, both the U.S military and the Swazis."