SOLDIERS from the 399th Combat Support Hospital instructed Malawi Defense Force medical staff and Soldiers from the 404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, May 5, at the Kamuzu Barracks, on a variety of procedures to help them better respond to combat-related injuries. The four-day course was designed to be an information-sharing exercise between the MDF and U.S. Soldiers who participated in MEDREACH 11, a humanitarian medical exercise that took place in Malawi.
“Their soldiers are very intelligent,” said 1st Lt. Jason J. Proulx, a Combat Life Saver instructor with the 399th CSH in Massachusetts. “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, says the confidence he has in the medical abilities of the Malawian soldiers comes from the competence many of them have displayed throughout the Combat Lifesaver course. Several Malawian soldiers in Proulx’s class have even attended and completed the same U.S. Army medical schools required of American 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 lifesaver 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 Defense 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 Defense 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. “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 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 and assessing a wounded soldier. They 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 shared 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 lifesaver skills, they will then be able to start training their non-medical Soldiers. The 399th is donating books and instruction guides to make this initiative a reality.
“Our goal is to teach the Malawi Defense Force the essentials of the Combat Lifesaver’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. “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 like malaria, and how to prevent them. The culminating event of the Combat Lifesaver course includes testing to all troops as combat lifesavers-certified. Given the number of personnel involved and the overall success rate of the practical exercises, participants believe the entire class 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 MDF capabilities and to work together to increase the combined readiness of their medical forces to respond to humanitarian emergencies.