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NEWS | Sept. 6, 2016

Canadian and Saudi Medical Soldiers support CSTX 86-16-03

By Staff Sgt. Debralee Best 84th Training Command

Soldiers with the Royal Canadian Army and the Royal Saudi Land Forces joined U.S. forces during Combat Support Training Exercise 86-16-03 at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Aug. 6 to 26.  

The 84th Training Command partners with the Medical Readiness and Training Command to execute two Global Medic exercises per year which are linked to different CSTXs. Soldiers from both countries were imbedded with units as part of Global Medic. 

Approximately 20 Saudi soldiers worked with two ambulance companies, while the Canadians were spread throughout the exercise in different hospital functions. 

While both forces came to train at Fort McCoy, their journey was very different. 

The Royal Canadian Army and the U.S. already have an established relationship. Every year Canadians are invited to a variety of U.S. exercises. Some of the Canadian soldiers at CSTX said that getting the opportunity to train with the U.S. Army Reserve can be very competitive depending on the desirability and timeframe of the exercise. 

“I’ve been in the field quite a bit and I’ve deployed so it’s not that special to me, but most of the rest of the guys here, this is a big opportunity to actually go into the field and do this training so it is very desirable,” said Capt. Adam Calabrese, pharmacy officer, Canadian Forces Health Service Atlantic. “A lot of folks really want to come out here because it’s a chance we don’t get very often.” 

Last year, a few members of the Royal Saudi Land Forces were invited to observe the training at CSTX. They thought it would be a great opportunity to train alongside the U.S. forces, so their government approved the request for 22 soldiers to attend this year’s exercise. Next year, the Saudi forces hope to integrate an entire company into the training. 

The Canadians found some differences between the U.S. and Canadian militaries, but the biggest surprise for those who have never been to an exercise this size was the different capabilities that were brought to the field. 

“That’s one of the big things for me is. Everything comes with the entire unit: the kitchen comes with the unit, the shower crew comes with the unit, the laundry crew comes with the unit, the engineers, everything is here,” said Capt. Carl Pobre, nursing officer, Canadian Forces Health Services Training Center. 

“For comparison, in the Canadian military we have just one unit, and I mean just one unit, that can mount a hospital comparable to this,” said Calabrese. “For me, it’s really neat to see this is how we provide definitive care in the field, this is not just a waystation for someone on the way to getting further care. This is, if someone needs surgery, this is where they come, this is where they get treated so it’s really fascinating to see that.” 

For the Saudi forces the biggest difference they saw was in the application of medical techniques. 

“It’s mostly the same. There is some differences with the procedures here and the policy so we get to know how it’s different,” said Capt. Ahmed Yousef Al-balawi, Royal Saudi Land Forces. “We have our own procedure and policy there, but they’re close to each other and it’s not that big of a difference, but it’s good to know.” 

The size of the exercise was not the only astonishment for the Canadians. Being active duty forces they found the Reserve aspect of the U.S. Soldiers to be impressive.  

“It’s been really interesting to see, working with you guys as a reserve unit, your reserve EMT doctors and nurses bringing their civilian side skills to the military aspect,” said Cpl. James Sinclair, medical technician, 31 Canadian Forces Health Services. “It basically ensures a well-rounded environment as opposed to just strategic military mindset.” 

The Saudi soldiers said many of their colleagues had become medics through the U.S. Army School in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, so they were not surprised with the capabilities of the U.S. forces. 

Collaboration was the main focus for the Saudi and Canadian forces. 

“When we joined the Army here, we mixed as one team dealing with the same cases as the American Soldiers in the same treatment room, the collaboration of going to check the patient and all the maneuvers in the exercise, side-by-side with the American Soldiers,” said Chief Saad S. Al-Shehrani, Royal Saudi Land Forces. “It’s been a good exercise for us and also for them just to share our knowledge about what is going on and update our knowledge, also. It’s been a great exercise.” 

“My impression is the exercise has gone incredibly well for the scale of it and to bring so many different units together is no small task by any stretch,” said Col. Scott McLeod, Canadian Deputy Surgeon General. “Every one of the Canadians I’ve spoken to so far has found it incredibly productive and incredibly valuable for them both for professional development as well as military development so I think it’s been really good and hopefully we can keep doing this.” 

Both forces expressed thankfulness for this opportunity. 

“The Global Medic exercise is very helpful, very useful for our Soldiers. We want to thank the commanders here and the Soldiers for the good effort given to us in everything here,” said Al-balawi. “We’re working together as friends.” 

“It is fantastic to be here. It is a rather rare opportunity,” said Calabrese. “We don’t get to do this all the time and it’s often difficult to try to integrate foreign military into a training event, it adds extra people, it’s more mouths to feed, it’s more training that has to happen and extra work for the staff for us to be here so it really is great to have this opportunity.