Malawi Exercise Supports U.S.-African Partnerships

LILONGWE, Malawi, May 11, 2011 — A U.S. and Malawi Defense Force human­i­tar­i­an med­ical exer­cise being con­duct­ed here is enhanc­ing the part­ners’ med­ical capa­bil­i­ties and their abil­i­ty to work togeth­er in response to a future cri­sis or emer­gency response, the com­man­der of the Nation­al Guard ele­ment pro­vid­ing com­mand and con­trol for the oper­a­tion report­ed.

404th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade
Army 1st Lt. Miri­am A. Ursua of the 399th Com­bat Sup­port Hos­pi­tal assists Army Staff Sgt. Jose R. Ruiz of the 404th Maneu­ver Enhance­ment Brigade in assess­ing Sgt. Rogers S. Chimdeya of the Malawi Defence Force dur­ing train­ing to become a cer­ti­fied com­bat life saver as part of MEDREACH 11 exer­cis­es being con­duct­ed in Lilong­we, Malawi. U.S. and Malawi Defence Force troops com­pet­ed in timed assess­ments to sim­u­late the fast-paced envi­ron­ment of real com­bat, as their peers eval­u­at­ed and pro­vid­ed them with instant feed­back.
U.S. Army pho­to by Sgt. Jesse Houk
Click to enlarge

The exer­cise, MEDREACH 11, kicked off May 3 and con­tin­ues through May 16. It brings togeth­er about 100 U.S. and 300 Malawi troops. The exer­cise includes class­room instruc­tion, field train­ing, and civic assis­tance activ­i­ties, to include med­ical and den­tal out­reach pro­grams in spe­cif­ic areas of Lilong­we.

Malawi is a land­locked coun­try locat­ed in south­east Africa. Lilong­we is the cap­i­tal city.

The goal of the exer­cise is for the two mil­i­taries to learn from each oth­er as they forge close part­ner­ships that ben­e­fit both nations, as well as the broad­er region, explained Army Brig. Gen. Robert Pratt, com­man­der of the Illi­nois Nation­al Guard’s 404th Maneu­ver Enhance­ment Brigade.

“This is a great oper­a­tion for us,” Pratt said. “We are learn­ing from each oth­er, and we are both stronger because of that.” The impact of MEDREACH 11 goes beyond patients treat­ed and friend­ships formed, said Navy Cmdr. Jonathan Adams, exer­cise plan­ner for U.S. Africa Com­mand. The exer­cise, he said, is part of Africom’s engage­ment in Africa that’s aimed at strength­en­ing part­ner­ships and part­ner capac­i­ty.

The ulti­mate goal, Adams explained, is to help African nations bet­ter sup­port the African Union’s Region­al Stand­by Force con­cept so they can respond togeth­er in times of crises — pro­vid­ing human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance and dis­as­ter response, deploy­ing peace­keep­ing forces or respond­ing to a region­al threat. “One of the far-reach­ing goals of Africom, in gen­er­al, is to aid the Africans in deal­ing with African chal­lenges,” Adams said.

The best way to accom­plish that, he said, is through a robust exer­cise pro­gram built on strong mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ships. MEDREACH 11, led by U.S. Army Africa, is among 16 Africom exer­cis­es con­duct­ed this fis­cal year alone. Many, like MEDREACH, he said, have a med­ical focus.

The U.S. mil­i­tary has a long his­to­ry of med­ical engage­ment in Africa, Adams explained. For near­ly a decade, he said, U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand con­duct­ed med­ical exer­cis­es in Africa, deploy­ing teams of doc­tors, den­tists and sup­port per­son­nel to pro­vide joint-com­bined med­ical train­ing and human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance. The standup of Africom has changed the focus of the exer­cise pro­gram, Adams said, not­ing the goal now is to strength­en rela­tion­ships already formed while help­ing host nations’ mil­i­taries build pro­fes­sion­al­ism and capa­bil­i­ty.

Adams said med­ical clin­ics and civic-action pro­grams remain key pieces of the exer­cise plan­ning.

“But our major focus is on increas­ing the capa­bil­i­ties and our inter­op­er­abil­i­ty with the [African] med­ical forces that will be deployed for future oper­a­tions,” he said. Africom is striv­ing to pro­mote more region­al mil­i­tary coop­er­a­tion, Adams said, so African nations are bet­ter pre­pared to respond togeth­er to a region­al cri­sis. MEDREACH 11 is a bilat­er­al exer­cise, he said, with observers from Mozam­bique, Botswana, Namib­ia and Lesotho expect­ed to par­tic­i­pate.

“Our future goal is to have it tru­ly be a mul­ti­lat­er­al, coop­er­a­tive exer­cise,” Adams said. “By prov­ing our good­will and show­ing the ben­e­fit of work­ing with Africom, we hope to encour­age more coop­er­a­tion from the oth­ers at the same time.”

For exam­ple, he said, the Nat­ur­al Fire exer­cise series in east­ern Africa has brought togeth­er mil­i­taries from region­al neigh­bors and the Unit­ed States to focus on human­i­tar­i­an and civic assis­tance, dis­as­ter relief and secu­ri­ty.

“That involves many part­ners from the east­ern African region, not just one,” Adams said. “And when we get that more tru­ly estab­lished in oth­er regions as well, that will be our big goal.”

Addi­tion­al mul­ti­lat­er­al exer­cis­es are in the dis­cus­sion or plan­ning stages, he said. Such mul­ti­lat­er­al mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary engage­ment, he added, will pos­ture African nations to bet­ter pro­vide for their own secu­ri­ty and cri­sis response.

The African Stand­by Force was stood up to be an inter­na­tion­al, con­ti­nen­tal African mil­i­tary force envi­sioned to deploy dur­ing times of cri­sis in Africa under the direc­tion of the African Union. All five African regions — north, south, east, west and cen­tral — are in the process of estab­lish­ing region­al brigades to sup­port the con­cept.

The suc­cess of this con­cept in sup­port­ing a secure, sta­ble envi­ron­ment that pre­vents vio­lent extrem­ism from tak­ing root affects far more than the African con­ti­nent, Adams said. “A secure Africa improves secu­ri­ty world­wide,” he said. “By improv­ing region­al sta­bil­i­ty, we help to build the mil­i­taries and the gov­ern­ments that can pre­vent these [ter­ror­ist] sanc­tu­ar­ies from being cre­at­ed, and in the big­ger scheme, reduce the effec­tive­ness of the ene­mies who would do harm to us from those bases of inse­cu­ri­ty.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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