United States Army Africa
MEDFLAG 09: Partnership strengthens ties and friendships
By Staff Sgt. Lesley Waters
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs
MANZINI, Swaziland – Partnership was the key to success during MEDFLAG 09, a U.S. Army Africa exercise held this August that benefited thousands of people in Swazi villages.
That partnership was built on cooperation between the U.S. military and government of Swaziland, said Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa.
“Our pledge is to continue to serve side-by-side with our national and international partners to promote security, stability and peace in Africa, and of course in Swaziland,” Garrett said. “MEDFLAG 09 has been an important demonstration of our commitment to our African and partnered nations.”
The exercise included the Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force, the Swaziland Ministry of Health, U.S. Army Africa and U.S. Africa Command.
Swazi medical staff got firsthand tips from U.S. medical officers. Meanwhile, the U.S. troops learned how to overcome the challenges to offering healthcare in rural African villages, Garrett said.
At a medical professional exchange, a dozen Swazi military and civilian medics took part in a seminar with U.S. medical officers – sharing ideas that build capacity to work together in the future. Through “first responder” mentoring, 25 Swazi medics from the USDF and the health ministry gained important tools that can help them in a crisis.
Overall, 16 Swazi medics, both military and civilians, took part in joint medical missions in local communities that helped Swazi people in need.
“Our Soldiers learned important lessons about how to operate in Africa, while the Swazi medical staff increased their capabilities through our interaction,” Garrett said. “As an added benefit, the people of Swaziland received quality care from this partnership effort.”
During the two-week exercise, roughly 2,400 medical and dental treatments were performed during visits to Swazi villages. At veterinary clinics, nearly 10,500 animals received treatment.
While in Swaziland, Garrett visited the joint U.S.-Swazi medical teams and spoke at the closing ceremony, held Aug. 14 at USDF headquarters.
“American and Swazi medics worked side-by-side to improve our readiness and enhance our ability to work together in combined medical operations,” Garrett said.
U.S. and Swazi teams carried out six veterinary civil assistance projects (VETCAPs), including a two-day visit to Hhohho Village in Zinyane Province, one-day at Shiselweni Village in Mkhwakhweni Province, one day at Manzini Village in Matufseni Province and a two-day visit in Lubombo Village in Maloma Province. During the VETCAPs, the veterinary team treated 6,792 cattle, 3,381 goats, 195 sheep, 195 dogs, one horse and one pig.
They also operated and successfully removed a benign tumor growing on the throat of a cow on the first day of VETCAPs.
“It was an unexpected surprise,” said U.S. Army Maj. Michael Simpson, of the Fort Dix, New Jersey-based 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, who was leading veterinary efforts during MEDFLAG 09. “Even though the tumor was benign it was near the throat. If it continued growing, it would have cut off the cow’s air passage and it would have suffocated.”
As the U.S. and Swazi veterinary teams treated the Swaziland livestock, medical and dental teams treated the local villagers.
The medical teams, which consisted of members from the 212th Combat Support Hospital, the U.S. Army Center for Health and Preventive Medicine and the 21st Sustainment Command, treated 1,519 patients during the six medical civil assistance projects (MEDCAPs).
“We saw patients who had everything from the basic cold to an elderly woman who had a goiter,” said 2nd Lt. Matthew McCreery, MEDFLAG 09’s executive officer.
The dental team, which consisted of members from the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Patrick AFB, Fla.; 59th Medical Wing, Wilford Medical Hall, Texas; and 212th CSH, treated 262 patients and extracted 273 teeth during the six dental civil assistance projects (DENCAPs).
“We were able to gain the trust of the Swazi villagers,” said Air Force Col. Dean Whitman, oral and maxillofacial surgeon. “Conducting these sorts of missions is important so the Swazis know we have good intentions and our primary concern is to help.”
During MEDFLAG 09, both U.S. and Swazi personnel conducted classes on disaster medical planning and operations, a mass casualty exercise and humanitarian and civic outreach to local communities. Classes included first responder familiarization, disaster relief, preventive medicine and tropical medicine.
“The health of the Swazi people and their livestock is clearly very important,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Money, co-director of MEDFLAG 09. “It is our distinct privilege to have worked side-by-side with our new found friends from the USDF and the Ministry of Health, to deliver medical and veterinary care in all four regions of this beautiful land.”
Cleared for public release.
Photos by Air Force Staff Sgt. Lesley Waters. CJTF-HOA Public Affairs
PHOTO CAPTION: Army Capt. Julie Bridges, center for health promotion and preventive medicine nurse, demonstrates different preventive illness techniques to Hhohho villagers during the second of a two-day combined medical and dental civil assistance project (MEDCAP and DENCAP) as part of exercise MEDFLAG 09 in Lubombo Village, Swaziland on Aug. 13.
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