United States Army Africa facilitated Medical Readiness Training Exercise 13-1 with Soldiers from the Army Reserve Medical Command and Army Medical Command in Cotonou, Benin, Jan. 14-25.

U.S. and Benin conducted the MEDRETE for military medical professionals to build and strengthen public health capacity by enhancing the ability to conduct surveillance for, prevent, and respond to infectious diseases, including outbreaks, bioterrorism, and other public health emergencies.

"This MEDRETE was an excellent way for us to build partner capacity with the Benin military and government," said Col. Mark Burnett, general pediatric, pediatric infectious disease physician, and tropical medicine physician from Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

In a MEDRETE, a small team of military medical professionals deploy for two weeks or less to underdeveloped areas to gain valuable real-world training while providing medical services to citizens in need of treatment. U.S. medical personnel benefit by providing medical care in a challenging and often unique environment; local medical professionals develop closer relationships with U.S. medical personnel; and the local population receive quality medical care.

Burnett, a native of Madison, Wis., who has been in the Army for 20 years, said it was nice to work with Benin medical military staff and cadet physicians to share best practices to enhance capabilities of both militaries.

During the first week, U.S. Army physicians conducted patient care encounters with their Benin military counterpart to assist in their diagnosis and treatment

"It was good to work in my specific specialty area with my counterpart from the Benin military," Burnett said. "Their perspective on treating malaria, HIV and preventive medicine was very fruitful with their knowledge in dealing with infectious cases."

Burnett added that we (U.S. Army) learned a lot from the training as well.

"I was very impressed with their pediatric program and it can be used as a role model for others," Burnett said. Burnett's counterpart was Benin Col. Alain Azondekon, Benin military hospital officer in charge. Azondekon has received previous medical training in San Diego, Calif.

"We worked together as a team of doctors who share the same common goal of preventing and treating infectious diseases," said Azondekon. "The partnership we built extends professionally and personally as we built strong relationships that will last a life time."

U.S. and Benin doctors provided classes during the second week to share ideas and processes for treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. Burnett added that he found the Benin physicians' expertise in infectious diseases very valuable and appreciated their increased passion in taking care of families and the Benin Armed Forces.

MEDRETEs are part of USARAF's regular, ongoing activities to build partner capacity for Africa countries. USARAF's increased cooperation with African partners enhances mutual understanding and increases stability and security across the continent.

"This has been a unique opportunity for Beninese and American military personnel to sharpen their skills through bilateral training that benefits Soldiers, nations, and the region," said Brig. Gen. Peter Corey, USARAF deputy commanding general. "It is our hope that the mutual respect and trust that underpins our professional working relationship will lead to continued engagements between the Benin Armed Forces and U.S. Army Africa."