By Rich Bartell, U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs OfficeApril 19, 2011
VICENZA, Italy - As part of a two-man theater contact team, U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) Majs. Allen Staley and David Sensiba worked with the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) to exchange information on military behavioral health from March 26 through April 1.
More than 30 MDF Soldiers participated in the exchange.
Staley, a USARAF chaplain explained the role of the team during its week-long exchange at Kamuzu Barracks in Lilongwe, Malawi. Sensiba is the Deputy Director, Behavioral Health Division, European Regional Medical Command.
"We shared with them what we do in the area of behavioral health care for U.S. Soldiers and Families with particular emphasis on deployment cycle support," Staley said.
"They shared what they do in their military in terms of behavioral health. The purpose of the exchange is to increase our respective understanding while building partnership and capability between our two organizations," Staley said.
The information exchange was requested by Brig. Gen. Dr. A. Chitsa Banda, Director of the Malawi Military Health Services. The concept was further refined by Majors Terry Clark and James Hayes, both medical planners with the USARAF Surgeon's Office.
"If we as care providers and chaplains don't understand what we are dealing with, in light of the challenges coming our way, we can be the first to fall sick," Banda said. "We must learn and work together as mental and spiritual health multipliers," he said.
Sensiba gave his perspective on the exchange.
"USARAF team and the MDF Health providers were able to engage in productive dialogue about Behavioral Health care best practices during Deployment Cycle Support from the perspective of the U.S. experiences in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and in view of the MDF's past and upcoming deployment of Soldiers in support of PKO," Sensiba said.
According to Staley, the behavioral health exchange mission was a precursor to the upcoming MEDREACH 11 in May.
"U.S. behavioral health staff won't be involved in that MEDREACH 11, but a USARAF chaplain team will discuss combat and operational stress control during an academics phase of the exercise," Staley said.
John Ice, the U.S. Embassy Political Officer in Malawi, summed up the exchange.
"Hopefully, this is the beginning of a journey of working together to provide better behavioral health services for members of the MDF," Ice said.