Medical Exercise in Swaziland Ends Successfully
Umbutfo Swaziland Defence Force (USDF), U.S. Army Africa, and U.S. Africa Command (USARAF) concluded the two-week MEDFLAG 09 exercise with a closing ceremony at USDF headquarters in Manzini, Swaziland on August 14, 2009.
MEDFLAG is a joint and combined military exercise led by U.S. Army Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to improve medical disaster preparedness and humanitarian assistance management. The exercise consisted of three phases: classroom training; a mass casualty exercise; and humanitarian and civic assistance events, to include medical, dental and veterinary assistance to the people of Swaziland
Army Major General William Garett III, USARAF commander, said the success of MEDFLAG 09 demonstrated the strength of the partnership between the U.S. military, USDF and the Swaziland government.
"Our pledge to you is to continue to serve side-by-side with our national and international partners to promote peace, security and stability in Africa, and of course in Swaziland," Garett said. "MEDFLAG 09 is an important demonstration of our commitment to our African and partnered nations. During MEDFLAG 09, both U.S. and Swazi personnel labored side-by-side to improve our readiness and enhance our ability to work together in combined medical operations."
U.S. and USDF medical teams, as well as members of the Swaziland Ministry of Health, conducted six veterinary civil assistance projects, with visits to Hhohho Village of Zinyane province, Shiselweni Village of Mkhwakhweni, Manzini Village of Matufseni province, and Lubombo Village of Maloma province. During the VETCAPs, the veterinary team treated 6,792 cattle, 3,381 goats, 195 sheep, 195 dogs, one horse and one pig. They also operated and successfully removed a benign tumor growing on the throat of a cow on the first day.
"It was an unexpected surprise," said U.S. Army Major Michael Simpson, of the Fort Dix, New Jersey-based 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, who was leading veterinary efforts during MEDFLAG 09. "Even though the tumor was benign, it was near the throat. If it continued growing, it would have cut off the cow's air passage and it would have suffocated."
As the U.S. and Swazi veterinary teams treated the Swaziland livestock, medical and dental teams treated the local residents.
The medical team, which consisted of members from the 212th Combat Support Hospital, the U.S. Army Center for Health and Preventive Medicine, and the 21st Sustainment Command treated 1,519 patients during the six medical civil assistance projects.
"We saw patients who had the basic cold to an elderly woman who had a goiter," said 2nd Lieutenant Matthew McCreery, MEDFLAG 09 executive officer. "We were able to treat most of our patients, but there were some we just didn't have the resources available to treat."
The dental team, which consisted of members from the 920th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, Patrick AFB, Florida, 59th Medical Wing, Wilford Medical Hall, Texas and 212th CSH, treated 262 patients and extracted 273 teeth during the six dental civil assistance projects.
"We were able to gain the trust of the Swazi villagers," said Air Force Colonel Dean Whitman, oral and maxillofacial surgeon. "Conducting these sorts of missions is important so the Swazis know we have good intentions and our primary concern is to help."
During exercise MEDFLAG 09, both U.S. and Swazi personnel conducted in class training on disaster medical planning and operations, a mass casualty exercise, and humanitarian and civic outreach to local communities. Classes included first responder familiarization, disaster relief, preventive medicine and tropical medicine.
"The health of the Swazi people and its livestock is clearly very important to your kingdom," said MEDFLAG Co-director Army Lieutenant Colonel Michael Money. "It is our distinct privilege to have worked side-by-side with you, our new found friends from the USDF and the Ministry of Health, to deliver medical and veterinary care in all four regions of this beautiful land."
The U.S. service members were in Swaziland at the invitation of the Swazi government and in coordination with the U.S. Embassy in Mbabane. Upon completion of the exercise, the U.S. service members returned to their home stations.