Rwanda Defense Force MEDEVAC skills, January, 2011
Rwanda Defense Force and U.S. Army 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion soldiers pose for a group photo Jan. 28, 2011, in Kigali.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Kathrine McDowell, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs Office
Two Soldier from the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion Functional Specialty Team took on a traveling contact team mission to Kigali, Rwanda, recently to facilitate a flight medic operations seminar for Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) battalion medical officers.
The Soldiers and their Rwandan hosts studied and exchanged ideas on medical evacuation procedures in support of the Rwandans’ pre-deployment preparations for the United Nations - African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
“Everyone knows that the Rwanda Army is a very disciplined people,” said Capt. 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.”
The seminar came about in response to a request last year from the Rwandans during a military-to-military event. Medical personnel expressed their desire to have additional information presented about U.S. military medical evacuation procedures in conjunction with using rotary aircraft.
As Rwanda becomes the primary troop-contributor to UNAMID peace support operations, the medical evacuation demonstrations and lectures should enhance the RDF’s growing search and rescue capabilities, said RDF general physician William Kanyakole.
“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 RDF 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.”
Kanyakole went on to explain that since Rwanda will be able to use search and rescue (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, disappear and do triage later.”
The contact team Soldiers focused on practical exercises in triage; loading and unloading patients; landing zone preparations; and the nine-line medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) request — a radio transmission using standardized information used by soldiers to request the extraction of casualties from a 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.”
In the course of the weeklong exchange, soldiers from both nations came to realize that the fundamental differences between the two militaries’ approaches were few.
“There are some differences,” said 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion surgeon, Col. 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.”
The seminar highlighted the benefits to be gained from partnering up with a friendly, but distinct, military force, said Kanyakole.
“It’s a very good experience,” Ngabo 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.”
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