ACCRA, Ghana, July 18, 2011 -- MEDFLAG 11, a bilateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Africa, has finished the first of two stages in Accra, Ghana, July 15, 2011.
The first portion of MEDFLAG 11 has strengthened the relationship between the U.S. and Ghana through five days of collaborative training, during which medical expertise is shared by the joint-team effort to improve medical treatment in their home countries.
The second half of the exercise includes hands-on application of the skills reviewed and shared during the classroom segment of the exercise.
“Together, we will learn from each other,” said Lt. Col. Rodney Boyd, officer-in-charge of the U.S. MEDFLAG forces and the commander of the 405th Brigade Support Battalion, a National Guard unit from North Riverside, Ill. “Once we leave here, both armies will be smarter and stronger.”
Soldiers from U.S. Army Africa, the 405th Brigade Support Battalion, from the Illinois Army National Guard; the 814th Medical Company, with the North Dakota Army National Guard; the 949th Veterinary Company, with army Reserve in Iowa; the 965th Dental Company, with the Army Reserve in Texas; and the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion, with the Army Reserve in Connecticut, have joined together to create the team of U.S. participants in the exercise.
Classroom instruction was provided by both the Ghanaian army and the U.S. team to ensure both teams come out of the experience with a new understanding of medicine and a better understanding of their own unit’s capabilities.
The U.S. instruction began with classes taught by Lt. Col. Clyde Scott, deputy U.S. Army Africa chaplain, whose hometown is Vicenza, Italy, and Maj. Robert E. Geaschel, Chicago, Ill., native and chaplain with the 405th BSB. The chaplains focused much of their attention on addressing issues regarding servicemembers’ emotional and spiritual needs during both war and peace times.
“The Ghanaian soldiers live life through trying to understand each other and support each other,” said Geaschel. “They really keep a community mentality in the military.”
The 949th Vet Co. brought a dynamic team including a food safety officer, a veterinary field officer, and several veterinary technicians. The 949th conducted classes on field sanitation, food handling and storage, and water testing.
“While the U.S. team led many of the classes, the GAF has taught us a lot about diseases we aren’t familiar within the U.S.,” said Maj. Kathy Knake, Unadilla, Neb., native and veterinary field officer for the 949th.
During the HCA portion of the exercise, the 949th will provide de-worming medicine for cattle, goats and sheep.
“Our team is split down the middle in terms of how much experience we have, and this is a great chance to work as a team,” said Knake.
The 965th Dental Co. focused much of its attention on learning cultural differences and ways their medical techniques might be different.
“This opportunity allows us to become more proficient in dental care, allows us more time to practice our work, and gives us more experience,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Bagley, platoon sergeant from the 965th and native of Dallas, Texas.
For one section of the training, the Ghanaian dental team escorted the doctors and dental technicians from the U.S. team to the 37th Military Hospital in Accra. The two teams spent several hours touring the facilities and discussing similarities and differences in equipment.
One of the biggest differences the teams found was the amount and types of medicine the two teams have access to.
“In Ghana, we don’t have [inhalation sedation], so we have to bribe a child to have his teeth looked at,” said Cpl. Felix Armah, a dental technician for the 37th Military Hospital. “They are scared of the instruments, so we have to give them a cookie or candy to convince them to let us look in their mouths,” added Armah.
The last main section of class exercises is led by the 814th Med Co. and GAF personnel and includes classes related to both field and peace time medical care.
The 814th conducted classes on a large spectrum of topics, to include how to perform rescue breathing, transporting a casualty, treating a chest injury, and performing a trauma casualty assessment.
“As a nurse, much of this training is a good review,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ruby Amegavluie, a nurse with the 37th Military Hospital. “We have many people who are not nurses or doctors, but it shouldn’t just be a doctor who knows how to provide medical care in the field.”
The U.S. doctors who attended this event were able to travel with the dental teams to the 37th Military Hospital to view the equipment the doctors and nurses use as well.
“This training is good for all of us,” said Amegavluie. “You only get experience in this training by actually applying the skills learned, so the practical exercises we are doing are very important.”
After all classroom training is complete, the two teams will begin working at a humanitarian civic assistance site. An HCA is similar to a walk-in clinic where doctors from both teams will help diagnose and treat common illnesses such as coughs and colds.
“Doing the classroom training will help us prepare to work as a team at the HCA site,” said Spc. Kerry Thompson, a medic in the 814th Med Co and a native of Bismarck, N.D. “We have learned new ways of treatment that will be beneficial in the future.”
The point of the HCA is not to teach local clinics how to perform their jobs in a different manner, but rather to help the clinics treat more patients than it normally could accommodate.
“The important thing to remember is that this exercise is about building a partnership with the GAF while learning from them,” said Thompson. “This experience will make me a better person and medic.
Being able to learn from new people while working in an environment we are not used to will allow us to work together as a team to get the job done.”
A key program in the United States’ efforts to partner with the government of Ghana, MEDFLAG 11 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.
Headquartered in Vicenza, Italy, U.S. Army Africa is the Army Service Component Command for U.S. Africa Command. Dedicated to positive change in Africa, U.S. Army Africa enables full-spectrum operations while conducting sustained security engagement with African land forces to promote security, stability, and peace. U.S. Army Africa is commanded by Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg.