By Master Sgt. Jim Fisher, 17th Air ForceFebruary 28, 2010
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany - A group of Tunisian officers traveled to Ramstein, Germany, January 20-25, 2010 to work with 17th Air Force (U.S. Air Forces Africa) on preparations for an upcoming medical exercise focusing on potential response to mass casualty weapons or incidents.
The Tunisians met with partners from U.S. Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA), the Wyoming Air National Guard and Army Guard, the U.S. Army Reserve from Nevada, the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, and other exercise planners. The group was putting the finishing touches on Exercise MEDLITE 2010, according to Chief Master Sergeant Kristen Maurer, chief of Clinical Services for the 153rd Medical Group, Wyoming Air National Guard.
"We are focusing this exercise on the operational readiness level," the Chief said. "So it will be almost like an ORE." The Chief also explained that exercise evaluation team members on hand would serve as advisors, as well as evaluators, providing instruction on disaster response-related topics.
The exercise is the latest in a series of training engagements between the U.S. and Tunisia, but the first to include the WYANG since Wyoming began a state partnership with Tunisia in 2007, Maurer said.
"Previously, the exercises were conducted through AFAFRICA and USAFE with the Reserve. Now we've stepped in because of our state partnership," Maurer said. While Wyoming's Army National Guard has been conducting bilateral affairs activities, this is the first major engagement for the Air Guard.
The Chief and her Wyoming ANG comrades have been involved in several previous planning meetings, and are building relationships with their Tunisian partners. Tunisian Colonel Kahled Lemine said one of the main objectives for the exercise is familiarity, and this is already being achieved through the planning process.
"These exercises improve our medical readiness and make Tunisian and U.S. troops very friendly and very familiar," Colonel Lemine said. "We have been conducting them for some years and they improve our proficiency to operate in certain cases, such as CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive)."
Tunisian Lieutenant Colonel Khaled Baltaji said that the scope of this year's exercise is wider in terms of participation, and in terms of employing lessons learned.
"The level of participation is higher this year," Baltaji said. "Our last exercise of this type took place in 2008, and this was the first time we had CBRNE in [the scenario]. We've taken the lessons learned from the last MEDLITE and tried to use them to improve this exercise. It's going to be more hands on. MEDLITE is the most successful exercise for us. It's an opportunity for us to analyze special techniques and to see how the U.S. works."
Maurer anticipates that the exercise will be a learning experience for everyone taking part.
"My people will end up getting some training from the Tunisians and their field surgical unit," the Chief said. "We are conducting joint training on their equipment versus our equipment and we are going to involve our decontamination unit as well."
After hosting representatives from numerous partner nations in Africa in 2009, the first visit in 2010 is the latest chapter in AFAFRICA's partnership-building efforts. U.S. Embassy Air Force Liaison Officer Captain Terrence Kilgore summed up the significance of the coming exercise.
"It's an excellent opportunity for the two nations to come together, to expand upon our understanding of CBRNE, and to build upon our partnership. It's also a great opportunity to strengthen security in the Maghreb region," Captain Kilgore said.