6-Feb-2011 Source: CJTF-HOA Public Affairs
A two soldier traveling contact team from the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion Functional Specialty Team (FxSp), assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, traveled to Kigali, Rwanda, January 2011, to facilitate a flight medic operations seminar to Rwanda Defense Force battalion medical officers (BMO) and exchange ideas on medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) procedures in support of pre-deployment preparations for the United Nations – African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
The seminar was a response to a request in 2010 when, during a military-to-military event, the medical personnel in attendance expressed a desire to have additional information presented about U.S. military MEDEVAC procedures using rotary aircraft.
With Rwanda becoming the primary troop contributing country to UNAMID peace support operations, the MEDEVAC familiarization demonstrations and lectures would enhance the RDF’s growing search and rescue (SAR) capabilities.
“This type of [seminar] is especially good for our forces going to support the peacekeeping mission in Darfur because that is really where we are focused,” said Rwanda Defense Force general physician William Kanyakole. “The information presented here is very relevant because it really puts us on the ground with knowledge and understanding to help incorporate our procedures to the UN way of doing things.”
He went on to explain that since Rwanda will be able to use SAR equipped helicopters in Darfur, RDF medical personnel can be more effective in treating battlefield casualties through triage and improvements in patient treatment in transit.
“You couldn’t triage patients on the battlefield,” Kanyakole said. “Darfur is an open land where you can be viewed over long distances, your numbers and even your weapons. You must load casualties [in vehicles], disappear and do triage later.”
Also included in the event were practical exercises in triage, loading and unloading patients, landing zone preparations and the 9-line MEDEVAC request, a radio transmission with standardized information used by soldiers to request the extraction of casualties from the battlefield by vehicle or aircraft.
“The airlift operations practical was important,” Kanyakole said. “It’s what we lack. Now that we will use helicopters for MEDEVAC it is important to know how to load and unload patients, how to call the helicopter for assistance and prepare the landing zone for their arrival.”
As the seminar progressed through the week, all participants saw that differences between the two forces were few.
“There are some differences,” said U.S. Army 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion FxSp surgeon Colonel David Hayes. “I think a lot of the differences that we have identified have to do with the environment the RDF normally functions in. They have developed their methods, procedures and policies to fit the kinds of missions that they have been presented with.”
For Kanyakole, the seminar was a prime example of the importance of partnering up with a foreign force.
“It’s a very good experience,” he said. “You compare what other people do with what you do and improve where necessary. You can learn other techniques that you don’t use here because the terrain is quite different so you learn a lot.”
“Everyone knows that the Rwanda Army is a very disciplined people,” said Captain Gisanura Ngabo, Rwanda Air Force general physician. “We have a thirst to know, we want to improve ourselves all the time and are ready to serve.”
By Staff Sergeant Kathrine McDowell
CJTF-HOA Public Affairs