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Forces combine to share disaster response techniques

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Roy Santana
  • 4th Combat Camera Squadron
Military medics from Argentina, Uruguay and the United States came together to share medical disaster response techniques in November here.

The information exchange was part of Operation Southern Partner, an in-depth subject matter exchange emphasizing partnership, cooperation and sharing of information with partner nation military members in Latin America.

More than 70 Airmen, one Soldier and one Canadian officer combined to make up the Defense Institute for Medical Operation team and then split up to visit four locations throughout South America during the two-week operation.

Maj. Jeremy Lloyd, an emergency room physician, and his four-man team met with about 50 Uruguayan army, navy and air force medics at the school of health of the armed forces here. A broad cross section of experts ranging from general practitioners, nurses, anesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists as well as a few civilian doctors working at the nearby military hospital attended the information exchange.

"We hope to enhance our knowledge of operational medicine through this exchange," Major Lloyd said. "The Uruguayan medics have firsthand experience because of their involvement in conflicts in the Congo, Haiti and various (United Nations) peacekeeping missions."

"We believe this exchange will be positive for you as well as for us," said Uruguayan Col. Roberto Correa, secretary general of the school. "We have more than 5,000 soldiers in 16 countries around the world. Other countries come to Uruguay to absorb the knowledge from us."

In Argentina, more than 40 people from different medical experiences as well as a helicopter pilot exchanged ideas with the Defense Institute for Medical Operation team there.

For Lt. Col. Meleah Whetstone, an individual mobilization augmentee nurse practitioner at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., this is her second Defense Institute for Medical Operation deployment and first to Argentina.

"This has been a fabulous experience," Colonel Whetstone said. "I am really proud to be in the Air Force and I'm proud to be a U.S. citizen. But coming down here to South America and exchange ideas and learn from each other about disaster response benefits everyone."

In both countries, there was plenty of note taking, interactive discussions and comparisons of certain medical procedures.

"I feel like I will benefit from this exchange from what I've seen so far," said Uruguayan Dr. Berta Rodao, a civilian and general medicine practitioner who is also studying Anesthesiology at the university in Montevideo. "I am learning the manner of good leadership, organization and structure from the North Americans."

Maj. Theresa Bonzani from Travis AFB, Calif., said her exchange with the Argentineans was enlightening.

"I've been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, but I've never worked with other countries' medical professionals before," Major Bonzani said. "You never know how advanced or behind another country is in medical care until you see it firsthand. They're not only developing medical care here, but they're already developed.

"(American military medics) have more experience with disaster response, but that doesn't mean we don't have a lot to learn," Major Bonzani said. "It's good to see how other countries practice medicine and disaster response and maybe they're doing things a little better than we are - we can learn from that."

The exchanges culminated with a mass casualty exercise for all participants using stage makeup and trauma simulations testing in Uruguay, while in Argentina, a table-top exercise was held.

(Master Sgt. Eric M. Grill from the Defense Media Activity-San Antonio contributed to this story.)