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Airmen stand up medical squadron to support training exercise

by Senior Airman Alex Martinez
Military Medical Training Exercise in Central and Eastern Europe 2009 Public Affairs

9/11/2009 - NIS, Serbia (AFNS) -- Airmen built and set up the 458th Expeditionary Medical Squadron here in early September to support a multinational medical exercise.

The expeditionary squadron is in Nis to support the 2009 Military Medical Training Exercise in Central and Eastern Europe, or MEDCEUR, that began Sept. 2 and lasts until Sept. 13.

The exercise, hosted by Serbia, focuses on providing a joint medical learning environment and assisting host nation civilian and military services; international, private and volunteer organizations; and other participating nations in enhancing disaster response actions.

It's vital to have the expeditionary capabilities displayed in this exercise, said Lt. Col. Alfred Flowers Jr., the 458th EMEDS deputy commander.

"We want to make [the exercise] as real as possible," Colonel Flowers said. "This is a big training opportunity for the countries participating. We can highlight and showcase our efforts, and we can train (others) and make them efficient allies throughout the world."

The 458th EMEDS mobile hospital occupies a large field tent on the exercise grounds. Within its walls, medical doctors, nurses and technicians from many of the nations participating in the exercise train together and test their joint responses to simulated mass-casualty and humanitarian scenarios.

"The importance of this being a joint event is that it establishes camaraderie," said Maj. Jana Kokkonen, the 458th EMEDS mobile forward surgical team chief. "It allows everyone to use and learn on the same equipment, and really have a good time interacting with each other and learning from each other how to do things better."

The squadron's capabilities range from emergency surgery to minor dental work.

"This (facility) is meant to offer patients basic treatments so an emergency department can deal with people that, for example, may need suturing," said Maj. Hafez Nasr, a 458th EMEDS primary care physician. "If there are more severe injuries, we have surgical capabilities."

The mobile hospital was erected adjacent to a similar, Serbian-run deployable hospital.

"We will be here together with the American armed forces and other nations to show our medical capabilities," said Serbian Col. Nikola Zec, commander of the Serbian deployable hospital. "We are ready to do what we have to do in any kind of mass casualty or any other accident events.

We are proud that we are a host nation," The colonel said. "We have something to show, and we're glad to have so many other nations here with so many participants."

More than 700 participants from 15 nations make up MEDCEUR 2009. Besides the host nation and U.S. forces, other countries participating in the exercise include Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, Georgia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway and Poland.

Most of the U.S. participants in the exercise and the 458th EMEDS are U.S. Air Forces in Europe Airmen; however, all military branches are represented including participants stationed in the U.S.

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