USA — Professionalism Key to Congo Medical Exercise

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2010 — Human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance — espe­cial­ly med­ical and den­tal care — is in high demand in Africa. And, that’s a big part of the rea­son the U.S. mil­i­tary is involved on the con­ti­nent, the com­man­der of U.S. Army Africa said yes­ter­day.

Dur­ing a Sept. 15 “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table, Army Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg dis­cussed Med­flag 10, an ongo­ing human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance exer­cise in the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic of the Congo’s cap­i­tal of Kin­shasa.

The exer­cise helps to improve the readi­ness of both coun­tries’ med­ical per­son­nel and includes class­room instruc­tion, a mass casu­al­ty exer­cise and civic assis­tance activ­i­ties in spe­cif­ic areas in Kin­shasa, Hogg said.

“Through­out this exer­cise we’ve worked on some pret­ty basic achieve­ments,” he said. “Sol­diers on both sides received class­es on triage, emer­gency treat­ment [and] evac­u­a­tion tech­niques, and lat­er on we con­duct­ed a med­ical human­i­tar­i­an mis­sion, where we treat­ed over 1,700 peo­ple from the Kin­shasa com­mu­ni­ty on the med­ical and den­tal sides.”

The Con­golese emer­gency respon­ders, called UMIR, also res­cued a num­ber of injured pas­sen­gers after a bus acci­dent. There were about 300 total par­tic­i­pants in the exer­cise, Hogg said, 100 of them U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

The joint ven­ture came about at the request of the Con­golese gov­ern­ment, by way of the State Depart­ment. Med­flag began in 1988 and has tak­en U.S. mil­i­tary units across the con­ti­nent to assist and part­ner with dif­fer­ent nations’ med­ical teams.

“We’re work­ing hand-in-hand with the Con­golese mil­i­tary to pro­fes­sion­al­ize their force. It comes down to leader devel­op­ment, when you get down to it,” Hogg said.

There also is a human­i­tar­i­an aspect to each Med­flag mis­sion that not only pro­vides care to local res­i­dents, but also helps to give those res­i­dents con­fi­dence that their government’s mil­i­tary is there to help them.

Hogg said it’s too soon to say whether mea­sures need to be tak­en as a result of Med­flag, but he said one les­son he learned is not to under­es­ti­mate any unit’s capa­bil­i­ties.

“The med­ical units we worked with here knew their busi­ness. They were pro­fes­sion­als,” he said. “They have a sys­tem to sup­port their sol­diers when they’re in the jun­gle fight­ing.

They have a sys­tem to sup­port their civil­ian forces.

“When you get down to it,” the gen­er­al con­tin­ued, “pro­fes­sion­al­iza­tion of a force does, in fact, make a dif­fer­ence. These exer­cis­es have an effect on how these groups will con­tin­ue their oper­a­tions.”

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

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