Total force brings aeromedical evacuation training to the DRC

by Tech. Sgt. Todd Wivell
17th Air Force Public Affairs

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo — A two-week medical exercise, in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and U.S. Air Forces Africa, focusing on aeromedical evacuation kicked off today at the Centre Superior Militaire Academy here.

MEDLITE 11 is an exercise that will improve the readiness of both countries’ medical personnel and will consist of classroom instruction, an aeromedical evacuation training scenario and a one-day mass casualty exercise Wednesday.

“Our months of planning are now culminating in this mission and exercise as we build on lessons learned from MEDFLAG 2010,” said Lt. Col. June Oldman, mission director, MEDLITE 11, from the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. “We look forward to the opportunity to learn from each other. The more we work together with our partners in Africa, the better we understand each other.”

Colonel Oldman said the purpose of this joint exercise is to focus on five key points: reinforcing the training of the Armed Forces of the DRC Medical Immediate Response Unit, enhancing the capabilities of the U.S. and Armed Forces of the DRC to respond to medical emergencies, sharing our training and experiences with the Medical Rapid Intervention Unit, building a partnership and relationship with the Congolese military and cultivating a professional Armed Forces of the DRC as part of the U.S. government’s efforts to support peace and stability in the DRC.

“What an in depth broad relationship we have here with the DRC,” said James Entwistle, U.S. ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Not only did we have the DRC and the U.S. forces here today at the opening ceremonies, but we were able to get representatives from Rwanda to attend as well.

“We are hoping to increase the capabilities between the Congolese military and the U.S. military and to eventually learn more than we teach,” he continued.

Approximately 60 U.S. Air Force active-duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and 150 Congolese military personnel will participate in MEDLITE 11, which started April 25 and ends Thursday.

“I came here to teach aeromedical evacuation to the Congolese,” said Senior Master Sgt. Julie Swearingin, an aeromedical evacuation technician with the Wyoming ANG’s 187th AES. “My hopes are the things I teach them will one day help save lives and provide them a more increased chance of survivability for their military members.”

“A great opportunity presented itself to me with this exercise,” said Staff Sgt. Amber Weaver, an aeromedical evacuation technician also with the Wyoming ANG’s, 187th AES. “I’m hoping to help the Congolese military medical personnel with helping their own wounded, while at the same time learning a great deal from them.”

The start of MEDLITE 11 signifies the latest in a series of exercises that were initiated in 1987 as a now U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, bilateral medical exercise to facilitate an exchange of medical information and techniques with militaries in Africa.

“This mission is truly a total force effort,” Colonel Oldman said. “It is a key element in a series of military to military activities that demonstrate the strong partnership and cooperation between the U.S. and Congolese militaries.”