LUANDA, Angola — U.S. and Angolan militaries wrapped up a two week medical readiness exercise (MEDREX) with a closing ceremony, Nov. 18, 2022.
The Angolan Armed Forces, in partnership with the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SETAF-AF) and the 807th Medical Command, U.S. Army Reserve, hosted the MEDREX at the Principle Military Hospital in Luanda from Nov. 8-18, 2022. The event marked the first of its kind to be held in Angola.
Senior leaders from both militaries highlighted the strengthened partnership forged by the medical teams after two weeks of working together to provide critical care to approximately 60 patients in Luanda.
“The relationships we have created here can make a real difference,” said U.S. Army Col. James Grady, SETAF-AF command surgeon, during the ceremony. “Over the past two weeks, the knowledge we’ve exchanged could very well make the difference between success or failure if we are called to work together in a future crises.”
Over the course of the exercise, the medical teams overcame language, cultural and territorial boundaries, joined forces and worked seamlessly together performing a wide range of services in general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency room care and anesthesiology.
“We come from different places but we all speak the same language, which is medicine,” said Dr. Jessica Sanches Campos Corujo, a civilian general surgeon with over 10 years at the Angolan Armed Forces hospital. “I am very grateful for this opportunity to work with the team from the U.S. and discuss alternative methods and techniques. This exchange makes all of us better and improves the way we deliver medical care to our patients,” she added through an interpreter.
Gen. Michael Langley, commander of U.S. Africa Command, took his first trip to Angola and visited the Principle Military Hospital during the MEDREX. He received a tour of the facilities from senior Angolan military officials and presented coins to members of the medical teams.
“This MEDREX shows the value of our bilateral cooperation between our two countries,” said Langley while addressing the Angolan leaders. “Sharing of professional skills across the medical profession. It also demonstrates your commitment to providing quality medical care for the people.”
The team of 12 U.S. Army doctors and nurses from the U.S. Army Reserve’s 357th Forward Resuscitative Surgical Detachment, were augmented by a quartet of Airmen trained through the U.S. Air Force’s Language Enabled Airman Program. The LEAP scholars provided invaluable language translation allowing the medical teams to communicate and perform complex and often life-sustaining medical procedures.
“It’s an honor for us to contribute to this important mission and also show the value of the LEAP program,” said U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Shahn Rashid, Portuguese/English translator who traveled from the Pentagon to offer his services. “We realize [translating] skills are perishable if you don’t use them, so we look forward to increased participation as we build these partnerships.”
MEDREX Angola is the first of six medical readiness exercises scheduled for fiscal year 2023 in Africa. SETAF-AF coordinates each MEDREX with African militaries and U.S. Army medical providers in order to enhance the medical operational capabilities of the participants.
“This experience ranks as one of the most rewarding of my military career,” said U.S. Army Maj. Debra Valdivieso, certified registered nurse anesthetist, 357th Forward Resuscitative Surgical Detachment. “The Angolans have welcomed us with open arms and allowed us to work alongside them to treat their patients. They are very skilled in their procedures and I have learned so much from them in terms of techniques and efficiencies that I will take back home to my hospital…and I’m confident that they’ve appreciated the things I’ve passed on to them in exchange.”
The closing ceremony concluded with exchanges of gifts and awards, followed by a trip across town to tour another hospital recently built to treat patients suffering from COVID-19.
“We are very grateful for the partnership, camaraderie and cooperation from the Americans,” said Angolan Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Filomena Buruti, hospital director. “We’re also thankful for the donation of expendable medical supplies which will help to minimize some of the difficulties we face with shortages. We hope that exercises like this will continue and we’ll do this again because this will help maintain our important partnership.”