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RICHARDS BAY, SOUTH AFRICA–Fifteen US Soldiers, including five from the New York Army National Guard, provided medical care to about 3,000 South African villagers in the Richards Bay area, along the eastern coast of South Africa, 100 miles northeast of Durban, during a medical readiness exercise which ran from July 18 to 26.
The Americans, who also included Army Reserve and active-duty Soldiers, worked with members of the South African Military Health Services, a separate branch of the South African National Defense Force, at six locations to provide dental and veterinary services as well.
“This has been one of the best experiences in my military career. It’s been eye-opening, and at the same time, it’s been heartbreaking to see some of the patients here in South Africa,” said Col. Martin Ortiz, a New York Army National Guard doctor who took part in the missions.
The medical exercise, or MEDREX in military speak, was conducted as part of Shared Accord 2022. This biannual training event teams US military personnel with those from an African national to build operational partnerships between Americans and Africans.
This year the exercise was held in South Africa, which has been part of a National Guard State Partnership Program relationship with the New York National Guard since 2003.
Other components of Shared Accord including New York Army National Guard Soldiers conducting tactical exercises with the South Africans.
“A great deal of planning and coordination had to be done to successfully execute the medical readiness exercise,” said Major Brian Bagli, a New York Army National Guard Medical Service Corps officer.
Working with the Military Health Services and the US Embassy, US personnel identified and visited several community outreach clinics during an on-the-ground reconnaissance top prepare for the Shared Accord mission.
The goal, according to Baglin, was to determine which clinics would best meet the mission goal of serving medically underserved villages, and also what supplies would need to be ordered at each location.
By visiting the various clinics, talking to the medical staff, and taking note of the equipment and medical supplies on hand, the medical personnel were able to determine the best team composition and order medical supplies to replenish host nation materials that were used during the exercise , Baglin explained.
The military medical teams sent to each location consisted of dentists, ophthalmologists, veterinarians, medical doctors and nurses. These were organized into medical multidisciplinary teams which included South African medical personnel.
Throughout the planning phase, a great deal of coordination was needed between the various units which involved US Forces Command, the US Southern European Task Force, Joint Task Force Horn of Africa, US Africa Command, and the US Embassy in South Africa.
To prepare for the medical missions, participants had to complete required training. Even after the exercise began, careful planning was needed to adapt to any changes that occurred, Baglin said.
The joint American/South African medical teams operated out of six community outreach clinics and one high school.
Along with providing services to over 3,000 civilians. US dental personnel dealt with 600 patients, while veterinarian teams vaccinated 5,000 animals for rabies and conducted a spay and neuter clinic for pets.
Maj. Martinlesenyeho, a South African medical officer, said that the mission was successful and that the Americans worked well with their counterparts.
“The US military has been incredibly professional and pleasant to work with. This is my first time working on this exercise with the US military, but I look forward to working with them in future exercises with our partner country,”lesenyeho said.
“Overall, the mission was a huge success not only due to our ability to develop a carefully crafted plan through critical and creative thinking, but because we were also able to quickly adapt and make modifications as the situation evolved.” Baglin said.
The Americans also got a chance to get to know the South Africans better than people, Ortiz said.
“The people here are very kind and loving,” he said.
Since launching the training partnership with South Africa in 2003, New York Army and Air National Guard personnel have visited the country regularly. They have participated in air shows, and military competitions, and have presented at South African military schools and leadership forums.
|Date Posted:||07.27.2022 11:39|
|Location:||RICHARD’S BAY , ZA|
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