VICENZA, Italy (Dec. 13, 2011) -- Recently, the U.S. Army Africa Surgeon's Office and Headquarters Support Company medical section came together for a three-day First Responder's Course to address some of the most important topics for travelers to Africa.

The course covered basic trauma and first aid topics including familiarization with field sanitation, tropical medicine, and American Heart Association CPR training.

This course, along with the USARAF travel medicine clinic, ensures all personnel traveling to Africa have the skills they need to respond to emergencies and care for themselves and fellow travelers.

"The difference in 'first aid' and 'first responder' is an emphasis on the caregiver being able to do everything required to keep an injured person alive," said USARAF Command Sgt. Maj. Hu B. Rhodes. "When you are confident in your ability to perform the assessment, treat the injury, stabilize the patient, prepare for transportation and move the patient then you are prepared to not only save a life, but also to save the quality of life for a wounded comrade."

The caregiver can be enlisted, officer or civilian.

"There is no way to predict every emergency situation or who will be the first responder when emergency care is required. The more people trained and competent to provide care, the better," Rhodes said. "We are blessed to have a great team of professionals that ensure our First Responder Course produces capable first responders. When we have people like Sergeant 1st Class [Roddy] Rieger, Sergeant Major [Bryan] Barren, Captain [Sean] Donohue, Colonel Kimberly] Armstrong and Colonel [Mark] McGrail on our team, we can all be confident USARAF is provided the best first responder training available."

The intent is to conduct two rotations of this course quarterly and eventually have all Soldiers attend.

"We have placed a high emphasis on hands-on training and practical application of skills during this course so that our soldiers and civilians will be prepared to handle injuries and illnesses during their travels," said Capt. Sean Donohue, with the USARAF Surgeon's Office.

"In addition, we involve our local subject matter experts on disease non-battle injuries topics like field sanitation, malaria and diarrheal illness as so many battles have been won and lost due to preventable illnesses," he said.

Donohue elaborated, it's important for students to have the opportunity to have hands-on training on the principals of first aid, but just important is the ability to see, touch and apply the specific items of equipment that we will have available as we travel to the continent.

"For instance, we train IV fluid administration so travelers are prepared if needed, but it is just as important for travelers to know how to use Premetherin treatment kits, water-purification methods and proper methods to manage and prevent diarrheal illness and malaria," Donohue said.

Col. Kimberly Armstrong, former Vicenza U.S. Army Health Clinic commander and current USARAF chief nurse, recommends all staff members traveling to the continent attend the course.

"Actually, the information on first aid and food/water safety is valuable for anyone," Armstrong said. "But, it is especially critical for our USARAF staff as they usually travel in small teams and visit areas that may have limited medical resources; such as ambulances and emergency rooms."

The course is not intended to make participants "medics," but it will provide them with the knowledge and confidence to thrive and survive in an austere environment.

"The information is essential to help keep them healthy and prevent illness while traveling, plus it gives them a foundation on how to respond to an emergency situation in the absence of any other medical assistance," Armstrong said. "They may find that they are on their own for hours to days while waiting for assistance/evacuation and they must be prepared to do what is necessary to save a life."

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.

For more information about U.S. Army Africa and ongoing activities, visit