By Sgt. Jesse Houk, 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Illinois Army National GuardMay 13, 2011
LILONGWE, Malawi - Soldiers from the 399th Combat Support Hospital instructed Malawi Defence Force (MDF) medical staff and Soldiers from the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Battalion, May 5, at the Kamuzu Barracks, on a variety of procedures to help them better respond to combat-related injuries.
The four-day course is designed to be an information-sharing exercise between the MDF and U.S. Soldiers participating in MEDREACH 11, a joint humanitarian medical exercise taking place in Malawi.
"Their Soldiers are very intelligent," said 1st Lt. Jason J. Proulx, a Combat Life Saver instructor with the 399th Combat Support Hospital in Mass. "They are asking very appropriate questions and answering appropriately. I have no doubt that there will be a 100 percent pass rate."
Proulx, a Londonderry, N.H., native, said the confidence he has in the medical abilities of the Malawian Soldiers comes from the competence many of them have displayed throughout the Combat Life Saver course. Several Malawian Soldiers in Proulx's class have attended and completed the same U.S. Army medical schools required of military combat medics.
While the Malawi Forces have not had to respond to combat injuries in recent years, MDF soldiers like Staff Sgt. Crantor A. Mwase, a regimental health orderly, believes there is still a great need for trauma training and that U.S. Soldiers have valuable medical instruction to share with their servicemembers.
"This Combat Life Saver has come at the right time," said Mwase. "It is giving us more knowledge than we had in the past. I think it will make the Malawi Defence Force stronger and more capable."
Mwase said the training is especially important due to the possibility of future military contingencies, including ongoing MDF mobilization to support the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast. He said the training is timely for the MDF and equips them with the knowledge to save lives.
"The Malawian Defence Force is more or less specialized in tropical medicine so trauma, in general, is not their specialty and that is what we are here to help with," said Spc. Ian P. Powers, combat medic with the 399th Combat Support Hospital in Mass. "This would not only benefit them on the battlefield, but also with local motor vehicle accidents and any other kinds of trauma that they would find in their own country."
The Combat Life Saver training included classroom instruction, followed by hands-on practical exercises to validate of what the participants had learned. Soldiers from both forces learned things like the application of a tourniquet, assessing a wounded Soldier, and finished with practicing needle-chest decompression using a special training aid - a goat cadaver, which later became the main course at the class barbecue.
Focused on building relationships, participants and instructors share information and experiences to ensure MDF Soldiers have the capability to teach the information to others. Once the medical staff of the MDF is able to become proficient on Combat Life Saver skills, they will then be able to start training their non-medical Soldiers. The 399th Combat Support Hospital is donating books and instruction guides to make this initiative a reality.
"Our goal is to teach the Malawi Defence Force the essentials of the Combat Life Saver's course so they can, in turn, teach. That's the biggest mission here," said Proulx. "It's important because the more people that you have that can provide any form of medical treatment the more lives you can save."
"I hope that this helps a little," said Spc. Angela T. Langley, a combat medic with the 399th Combat Support Hospital. "I know that they were talking about some of them being deployed to the Ivory Coast and I hope that they benefit from this and they take away from it. I hope we enhance their medical capabilities."
Both forces benefit from the training, as MDF Soldiers will later don the instructor role by teaching U.S. servicemembers about tropical diseases, such as malaria, and how to prevent them.
The culminating event of the Combat Life Saver course includes testing to affirm all troops Combat Life Saver-certified. Given the number of personnel involved and the overall success rate of the practical exercises, participants believe the entire training audience can walk away having achieved their goals.
"I am very excited that the U.S. Armed Forces are here," said Mwase. "You have been helping us for a long time and we ask your country, the USA, to continue helping us."
MEDREACH, a key program in the United States' efforts to partner with the Government of Malawi, is the latest in a series of exercises involving U.S. military forces and African partner militaries with the aim of establishing and developing military interoperability, regional relationships, synchronization of effort and capacity-building.
The goal of MEDREACH 11 is to enhance U.S. and Malawi Defence Forces capabilities to work together and to increase the combined readiness of their medical forces to respond to humanitarian emergencies.