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AFRICOM: Professionalism Key to Congo Medical Exercise

American Forces Press Service - September 17, 2010
U.S. Army Maj. Angie Allmer assists a Congo resident to the medical waiting area in Kinshasa
U.S. Army Maj. Angie Allmer assists a Congo resident to the medical waiting area in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sept. 14, 2010. Allmer is part of a joint medical effort with U.S. military medical personnel and Congo armed forces providing humanitarian assitance to local people. Allmer is a nurse is assigned to the North Dakota National Guard's state medical detachment in Bismarck. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James D. Sims

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.”

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