LILONGWE, Malawi, May 13, 2011 — Army Col. Marcus De Oliveira, the U.S. Army Africa chief of staff, closed the Medreach 11 medical humanitarian assistance exercise here yesterday praising the participating U.S. and Malawi Defense Force troops who “accomplished every exercise objective and achieved far more than we asked of them.”
The exercise, which kicked off May 1 and wrapped up yesterday, was the first Medreach for U.S. Army Africa and the first surgical readiness exercise the United States has conducted in Africa.
De Oliveira ticked off a list of accomplishments: classroom exchanges on combat lifesaving and tropic medicine and other medical techniques, outreach missions that provided medical and dental care to more than 3,000 Malawian civilians, and use of new sutureless techniques that restored sight to almost 400 people suffering from advanced cataracts, among them. During the closing ceremony at the Malawi Defense Force’s Kamuzu Barracks here, De Oliveira said the exercise couldn’t be done anywhere else in Africa.
It succeeded in Malawi, he said, “because here we found a professional force that stood side by side with us in planning, and, most important, in working to help the citizens of Malawi.”
But beyond these training and health and surgical benefits, De Oliveira said Medreach provided “one small, positive piece of a much larger program.” “The real benefit of this exercise is the mutual respect and understanding gained by two professional militaries that worked side by side and built lasting relationships,” he said. “Those relationships will far outlast the short-term benefits of this exercise. … This exercise is really a small facet of a wider, strong lasting partnership between our two countries.”
Lisa Vickers, charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Malawi, called Medreach 11 “a perfect example of the cooperation possible between our two militaries and our two nations.” “Such cooperation is critical as we both work for a more peaceful, stable and prosperous world,” she added.
Lessons learned during Medreach 11 will help ensure that both the Malawi Defense Force and U.S. military are better prepared “for any mission that may come their way,” Vickers said.
This preparedness is critical, she said, “whether that mission be peacekeeping on the continent of Africa, providing humanitarian assistance to a neighboring country in their time of need, responding to a natural disaster here at home in Malawi, or yes, maybe even combat.”
The U.S. government has long been a proud partner with the Malawian military in preparing for all of these missions, Vickers said. “And it is my hope,” she added, “that the training gained in Medreach 2011 will be useful in any situation in which the [Malawi Defense Force] might find itself engaged.”
Brig. Gen. Paul Phiri, the Malawi Defense Force’s director of training, said the benefits of Medreach 11 will assist his troops as they conduct peacekeeping operations and respond to disasters and crises in the region.
“This joint exercise has increased the understanding of the two armed forces’ capacity and capability in such operations,” he said. “I believe there is a lot more we can do together. … The impact of these exercises is far-reaching.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)