Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Utah Air Guard conducts chemical training With Moroccan counterparts

By Sgt. Whitney Houston
U.S. Marine Forces Africa

(5/18/10) - The Utah Air National Guard's 151st Expeditionary Medical Group kicked off two weeks of mutual medical training with their Moroccan counterparts as part of Exercise AFRICAN LION 2010 by discussing chemical awareness and response at the Moroccan military's South Command Headquarters, May 16.

The purpose of this training was to discuss various chemicals, their effects, and decontamination techniques, as well as introduce and familiarize the two parties with each other before conducting real-world training later in the week.

"This training is to bring us together," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mike La Giglia, who serves with the 151st EMG. "It's to gel as a team before going out into the field working elbow to elbow with them."

Coupled with fraternal intent, the Utah-based Airmen gave presentations centered on medical assistance after exposure to harmful chemicals to increase understanding on how to best react to such situations.

"We discussed with our Moroccan counterparts hazardous materials," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Micah Smith, an emergency physician who serves with the 151st EMG. "We covered everything from what they are, and how to respond to them by using very specific situations surrounding industrial and household products. So if they (Moroccan emergency responders) are called to respond to them, they will better adapt to that specific situation" Smith stated.

This particular training also amplified the understanding of Utah's Airmen and leaders as they exchanged ideas with the Moroccan military.

"The reason why we did this type of training was so we could work directly with the Moroccans in training, and to share ideas and abilities," Smith said.

"We had a very lively discussion about the differences in performing emergency practices and how they differ, and it's been an eye opener to see a different perspective and understand why they do what they do," he added.

Training experiences like those conducted by Smith and his counterparts are important to establishing a good working relationship between U.S. and Moroccan medical personnel as they continue working together to provide medical, dental and veterinarian assistance in remote villages in central Morocco as part of AFRICAN LION 2010.

"It is good that we're doing this training together with the same people who we'll be working with for the next six days as we conduct the humanitarian civil assistance missions," said U.S. Air Force Colonel Paul Byrd of American Fork, Utah, commander of the 151st EMG.

Exercise AFRICAN LION 2010 not only diversifies one's repertoire of experience, it also gives crucial opportunities to the less experienced service members, American and Moroccan alike, Byrd explained.

The experience of working with a foreign military also gives Airmen and leaders of the 151st EMG an opportunity to immerse in a new culture while serving American allies during peacetime exercises.

"It gives us an opportunity to know the Moroccan culture and connect with their leadership as Morocco is a joint partner in peace," Byrd said. "In the case of the medical personnel, we're able to interface with Moroccan medical providers at a very personal level."

Exercise AFRICAN LION 2010 is an annually scheduled, joint, combined U.S.-Moroccan exercise. It brings together nearly 1,000 U.S. service members from 16 locations throughout Europe and North America with more than 1,000 members of the Moroccan military. AFRICAN LION is designed to promote interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures.

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