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NEWS | Feb. 5, 2016

MEDRETE brings US military medical professionals to Senegal

By Capt. Charles An 3d Medical Command (Deployment Support)

By Capt. Charles An for U.S. Army Africa Public Affairs

DAKAR, Senegal – U.S. Army Reserve medical professionals from around the world gathered in Dakar, Senegal, Jan. 18-29, partnering with Senegalese military medical professionals for Medical Readiness Training Exercise 16-1.

U.S. Army Africa conducts MEDRETE exercises in different partner nations throughout the year to increase medical capabilities and proficiencies. MEDRETE 16-1 is the first of many exercises to be coordinated by USARAF this year and brought U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers to Dakar to share and learn with their Senegalese counterparts.

“The most exciting thing for me to learn was traditional intubation with a laryngoscope on a patient that is under general anesthesia,” said Staff Sgt. Angela Langley, health care specialist for the 399th Combat Support Hospital based in Taunton, Mass.

“I was trained to use other intubation devices,” said Langley.

Langley and six other members from her unit were joined by Lt. Col. Charles Boggs, a general surgeon for the 345th Combat Support Hospital, St. Petersburg, Fla., to form the medical team that crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Senegal.

“There was an opportunity to help train, and also receive training from African medical assets,” said Boggs on why he joined the 399th for this exercise.

Boggs recently returned from Afghanistan, serving as a surgeon for special operations teams, just months prior to coming to Senegal. Once the medical team was complete, they met with other U.S. Army Reserve personnel from Medical Support Unit-Europe of the 7th Civil Support Command in Germany, and the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), Atlanta, Ga., to help with the mission. One of the Soldiers supporting the exercise was 1st Lt. Alyson Ochs, an emergency room nurse for the Medical Support Unit-Europe in Germany.

“I’ve been fortunate to wear two hats on this particular mission. I’m assigned as the finance officer, but I also act as an emergency nurse,” Ochs said.

“I’ve been able to rotate to the various clinics to work with our Senegalese counterparts,” said Ochs.

The U.S. medical team integrated into the radiology and pediatric clinics, as well as the emergency and operating rooms, assisting with day-to-day operations where they learned how their Senegalese partners conducted medical operations.

“I’ve learned a lot. They really rely more on assessment skills and physical assessments rather than technology - what we rely on back in the U.S.,” said Ochs.

“I think the American team will learn to work in a country with means that are different,” said Senegalese Maj. Diop Balla, a general surgeon at Hopital Militaire de Ouakam.

“I think it is not the same in the U.S. and they can come and learn with our local factors,” said Balla.

Balla’s assessment was echoed by Col. Jim Czarnik, U.S. Army Africa command surgeon.

“The MEDRETE was essentially bringing U.S. and Senegalese clinicians shoulder-to-shoulder to solve problems not necessarily with their equipment, but using their minds,” said Czarnik.

The learning experiences shared at the hospital were the focus and goals of MEDRETE 16-1. Testimonies from both U.S. and Senegalese military medical professionals stated the mission was a success in this respect.

MEDRETE 16-1 demonstrated the ability for U.S. forces to train in an austere environment, share medical procedures and build lasting relationships with Senegalese medical professionals, said Czarnik. It also allowed Senegalese medical professionals to enhance the Senegalese health care system’s ability to deliver effective general surgery and trauma response in support of regional UN and African Union missions, said Czarnik.