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U.S., Chadian biomed technicians rely on expertise of one another during MEDREX 19-1

By Staff Sgt. Brandon Ames | U.S. Army Africa | March 13, 2019

N'DJAMENA, Chad — Successful medical readiness training exercises do not depend just on doctors’ and nurses’ abilities. Additional medical professionals who maintain the necessary equipment are vital to achieving the events’ objectives.

During Medical Readiness Exercise (MEDREX) 19-1 at the Military Teaching Hospital in N’Djamena, Chad, U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Vanessa Yonkers, a biomedical technician from the 348th Field Hospital, 3rd Medical Command Deployment Support in Atlanta, Ga., shared her experience and expertise in inspecting, maintaining and repairing medical equipment to facilitate medical care by U.S. and Chadian military medical personnel.

Yonkers and her Chadian counterparts contributed to the exercise’s primary focus of building partner cohesion between collaborating military medical practitioners. They spent their time making sure medical equipment used in the exercise functioned properly. 

Col. Darrin Dailey, a MEDREX 19-1 team member and operating room nurse, said, "In the operating room we use extremely advanced equipment and technologies. Without biomedical technicians to ensure that these are properly functioning, all this advanced equipment is useless."

In addition to confirming the medical equipment’s functionality, biomedical technicians work with medical personnel to purchase and use new technology. New equipment was not available during MEDREX 19-1. Yonkers and her Chadian partners had to rely on each other’s acumen to service a medical steam sterilizer, an oxygen concentrator, and a portable operating room light.

Some of the equipment was donated without manuals or testing tools so the biomedical technicians had to collaborate using previous experiences with similar devices to service the equipment accordingly. 

“Some of the equipment had been in storage since 2010, and, since there were no manuals, they may not have known how to inspect, set up, connect and use the equipment as dictated by the technical user’s manual,” Yonkers said. “This is where having a foundational knowledge of general medical equipment came in and (our collective) experience paid off.” 

Yonkers added that the MEDREX would be an invaluable training experience for new biomedical technicians. 

Yonkers said, “After advanced individual training and prior to a deployment, MEDREXs could be an ideal place to train newly certified biomedical technicians because they’ll be challenged in an alternately resourced environment while building partnerships and enhancing our partners’ capabilities.” 

MEDREX 19-1 highlighted the importance of gaining general experience as a biomedical technician. “In many cases experience was the only resource we had to draw from in this environment,” said Yonkers. “It was an honor to share the experience of servicing equipment beside the Chadian biomed techs.”

MEDREX 19-1 is a combined effort between the Chadian government, U.S. Army Africa, the U.S. Army Reserve 3rd Medical Command Deployment Support, along with Fort Hood’s Dental Activity (DENTAC). MEDREX 19-1 is the first in a series of medical readiness exercises that U.S. Army Africa is scheduled to facilitate within various countries in Africa, and serves as an opportunity for the partnered militaries to hone and strengthen their general surgery skills while reinforcing the partnership between the countries. 

The mutually beneficial exercise brought Chadian military and U.S. Army medical professionals together to foster cooperation while conducting medical specific tasks.