772nd CST supports medical mission in Tanzania

by 7th Civil Support Command Public Affairs

ZANZIBAR, Tanzania — Members of the 772nd Civil Support Team, 7th Civil Support Command, an Army Reserve unit based in Kaiserslautern, concluded their two-week mission of providing command and control, liaison capability, and event support for a 16-member medical team during a medical readiness and training exercise, known as MEDRETE 12, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 12 here.

On the tiny island of Zanzibar, situated off the coast of Tanzania, U.S. and host nation medical teams collaborated to conduct ophthalmology care and sutureless cataract surgery at the Bububu Military Hospital in order to foster greater interoperability and civil humanitarian assistance. To execute this mission, U.S. Army Africa partnered with the U.S. State Department Country Team, the Tanzanian Peoples Defense Forces and the Tanzanian Ministry of Health. 

“The Americans are here to help us. This event is for the people of Zanzibar. When the Americans leave we have to continue to provide care for our people,” said Brig. Gen. Adam Mbulanga, TPDF surgeon general.

The U.S. team of medical professionals deployed to the tiny African island to get valuable real-world training while providing medical services to citizens in need of treatment. MEDRETE 12 provided U.S. forces an opportunity to partner and build relationships and capabilities with host nation medical providers in unique and challenging environments. During the first week alone, the medical team screened nearly 3,300 patients, fitted more than 1,900 patients with adaptive eye wear and conducted 245 cataract surgeries.

While the medical team provided the people of Zanzibar with needed ophthalmology care and treatment, members of the 772nd CST provided the necessary command and control for the MEDRETE mission.

“We served as the mission advanced party, received and pre-positioned the medical equipment, set up lodging, and handled the all the administrative, logistical and operational aspects so the medical team can completely focus on helping the people of Zanzibar,” said Capt. Kevin M. Czarkowski, the 772nd CST team chief.  
The other members of the 772nd team were: 1st. Lt. Roy Reynolds, 1st. Sgt. Christopher M. Constantino and Spc. Nicole Hodge.

“The reception from the people of Tanzania has been extremely positive. As time went on and the word starting getting around to the villages, more and more people were showing up at the hospital,” Czarkowski said.

One 772nd CST member who gained more from the mission than she expected was Hodge. As an Army medic and a civilian emergency medical technician, Hodge deployed as part of the command group, but spent her time assisting in the operating room. With no previous ophthalmology experience, much less ophthalmological surgery, Hodge joined the medical team and gained valuable experience assisting in the operating room, performing before and after operation screening and care.

“The people we helped were very friendly and grateful for the services we provided. Most Zanzibarians are farmers and rely on bartering to get the things they need. If they can’t see, they can’t earn their livelihood or provide for themselves,” Hodge said. “It is nice to see the Army doing a humanitarian mission that helps people.”

Hodge currently teaches EMT courses for Central Texas College in Vicenza, Italy, and has aspirations to enter the Army Physician Assistants program and specialize in emergency medicine. 

Though only a 20-person team may seem small for such an important mission, Czarkowski said it is part of an overall strategy.

“The strategy is to have a small, unobtrusive footprint and work with the host nation Ministry of Health doctors to not only provide the much needed care, but also build their capacity to provide ophthalmology care to the people of Tanzania,” Czarkowski said.