U.S. Medical Personnel Complete Joint Medical Training in Africa

ER-RACHIDIA, MOROCCO- U.S. medical personnel completed three days of intense medical training in Er Rachidia, Morocco on September 8, 2003.

The training is part of the annual MEDFLAG humanitarian relief operation and joint training exercise that is taking place in Morocco this year. Medical personnel and public health officials from all parts of Morocco, Tunisia, Gabon, Belgium and Zimbabwe are participating in MEDFLAG, which is scheduled to continue until September 20, 2003.

The first of three phases of MEDFLAG, which began the day of arrival on September 6, incorporated multi-national medical training classes and on-hands training conducted at the civilian hospital in Er Rachidia.

Instructors from U.S. Naval Hospital Rota, Spain and other medical commands located in Europe and the U.S. accomplished over 60 hours of advanced medical training in areas of chest trauma, pediatric care, mass casualties, disaster preparedness, field triage and abdominal surgery, according to exercise planners.

"The classes are full with up to 40 to 50 students in each of the classes," Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Craig from Rota said during the training evolution. "There is literally standing room only and they are getting exactly what they came to learn," he continued.

The more than 150 students included medical personnel and public health officials from all parts of Morocco, Tunisia, Gabon, Belgium and Zimbabwe. According to Lt. Mark Musket, U.S. Naval Hospital Rota, "The students are primarily military and civilian nurses, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), and civil health officials."

In one particular class on pediatric life support, Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Southwick from Rota demonstrated to the class of 43 students how to intubate an infant and establish an airway on a medical training dummy. "Only two of the students have ever conducted this type of procedure. The students are very interested in learning advanced airway techniques which they will carry on and use with future patients," he continued. This type of training is the basis of the first phase of MEDFLAG 2003 which is specially designed to increase interoperability of all participating medical personnel.

MEFDFLAG Mission Commander, Cmdr. Mike Stacy said, "It is important that all of the participating organizations are able to work together and are comfortable with how each react and operate in a mass casualty situation." The goal of the training is increase the comfort levels and confidence of the participants so they can respond successfully to a future crisis."

"The multinational cooperation and mutual understanding we build here today is vital so that we are able to successfully react to a crisis in this region as an experienced team in the future," Stacy added.

The humanitarian relief phase of MEDFLAG is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 in a community near Er Rachidia, Morocco, where U.S. and Moroccan medical personnel will travel there to provide a wide range of on-site medical and surgical services, including general surgery, ophthalmology surgery, basic medical evaluation and treatment, preventive medicine treatment, dental screenings and treatment, optometry screenings, eyewear distribution and public health training. "Today is the first of seven relief operations for MEDFLAG. In all, we'll use more than $2.5 million of medicine and supplies to treat those who would not ordinarily receive such care", MEDFLAG Deputy Public Affairs Officer, Lt. (jg) Morgan Murphy said. Up to 600 patients can be seen and treated at each location.

The final phase of MEDFLAG is a full-scale mass casualty exercise to be conducted on September 18, 2003. The drill is based on a realistic flash flood scenario specific to this region and will test the Moroccan military and civilian emergency response services to cope with the simulated disaster.

Units participating in the MEDFLAG 2003 include U.S. military personnel from all branches of the armed forces and include: U.S. Naval Hospital Rota, Spain, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, U.S. Air Forces Europe, U.S. Naval Medical Center Bethesda, U.S. Naval Medical Center San Diego, U.S. Naval Dental Center Naples, 464th U.S. Army Medical Company Landstuhl/Missawa.

For more information, photographs or media availabilities, please contact Lt. Corey Barker at (34) 659-460-531.

Updates and imagery can be obtained from the Navy NewsStand at www.news.navy.mil Search word: 'MEDFLAG'

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