Medical Readiness and Training Exercise 2012

Tuesday January 31, 2012

What is it?

U.S. Army Africa's first Medical Readiness and Training Exercise (MEDRETE) program of 2012, prepares U.S. military ophthalmologists for deployment in austere operating environments while simultaneously increasing host nation ophthalmology capabilities and strengthening our partnership with militaries in Africa. This small military footprint is also designed to make a big impression on the host nation populace.

This exercise takes place in February on the island of Zanzibar in Tanzania. Working closely with the host nation Ministry of Health and military medical providers, a small team of U.S. military medical personnel deploy for two weeks to participate in real-world training, improve working relationships with host nation medical providers, and provide medical services to citizens in need of treatment.

During MEDRETE 12-1, trained U.S. military ophthalmologists and Tanzanian People's Defense Force medical specialists performed a suture-less cataract surgical technique known as ECCE (extracapsular cataract extraction) to help reduce the high incidence of cataract blindness in Tanzania. Patients undergoing ECCE require minimal post-operative care, have a low complication rate. Since the procedure is low-tech, it is inexpensive and affordable throughout the world.

What has the Army done?

Life-changing events became the norm during the last USARAF MEDRETE exercise in Malawi that was conducted in tandem with USARAF's MEDREACH '11 mission. It enhanced Malawian optometry treatment capabilities while strengthening our partnership and humanitarian assistance efforts.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

MEDRETE is a regularly scheduled USARAF exercise where small teams of U.S. military medical professionals deploy for two weeks or less to a select area in Africa. The future will see additional MEDRETE exercises in African countries of Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

Why is this important to the Army?

The real benefit of exercises like this is the mutual respect and understanding gained by two professional militaries working side-by-side to build lasting relationships. These relationships will far outlast the short-term benefits of this exercise. This is really a small facet of a wider, long-lasting partnership between our two countries. Most of the United Nations humanitarian and peacekeeping missions in the world are in Africa, so MEDRETE is an example of how USARAF is helping to ensure a more self-sufficient, secure and stable Africa.


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Senior Leaders are Saying

"It is truly remarkable all that our Soldiers have accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over the past decade they have done an absolutely magnificent job fighting two wars in difficult and demanding environments. That said, they are undoubtedly tired and stressed, and many are dealing with challenges including physical and psychological wounds, injuries and illnesses incurred as a result of their service. Among the most difficult are the non-visible wounds of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury. I frequently refer to them as the 'signature wounds' of this war."

- 32nd Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, sharing his final thoughts, as he retires from the Army today, Jan. 31, 2012.

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What They're Saying

"We help the locals rebuild their country to help provide stabilization, help get their economy going again, and help people become self-reliant… are not as susceptible to planting IEDs for money or joining terrorist organizations. So really it's part of the overall fight. We're out helping the country get back on its feet again and by doing that, creating stabilization."

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