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Ky. Guard medical staff share knowledge with Djiboutian hospital

A contingent of Soldiers and Airmen from the Kentucky National Guard pose with staff of the Ah-Bashir Military Hospital after a two-day mass casualty exercise held in Djubouti City, Djibouti, April 2, 2019, as part of the State Partnership Program. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

A contingent of Soldiers and Airmen from the Kentucky National Guard pose with staff of the Ah-Bashir Military Hospital after a two-day mass casualty exercise held in Djubouti City, Djibouti, April 2, 2019, as part of the State Partnership Program. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

DJIBOUTI CITY, Djibouti -- Several Soldiers and Airmen from Kentucky National Guard medical units joined together to offer their expertise to the military medical staff at the Ah-Bashir Military Hospital here March 29 to April 4 as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program.

Kentucky Guardsmen visit the small African nation multiple times a year to build rapport and share training opportunities.

“Any time you can work with other countries, build meaningful relationships and train together is important,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Brian McMorrow, medical plans and operation officer for the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Medical Group, Detachment 1. “Not only do we have the partnership with Djibouti, but having a presence on the African continent is of real strategic value.”

While there, the director of the hospital and Kentucky Guardsmen planned a two-day mass casualty simulation to test the staff’s procedures and response to a large influx of patients.

“This was really about getting to know one another and for us to observe where the Djiboutians were with their planning,” added McMorrow. “I was very impressed with how far along they were.”

The director of the hospital had been waiting for this opportunity to work with his American counterparts.

“The exchange helped me to start this exercise that we have spent a year preplanning,” said Col. Madian Mohamamed Said, a medical doctor and director of the Ah-Bashir Military Hospital.

The mass casualty training was intended to push the staff at the hospital and test the procedures that had been set in place by Said and his staff.

“We take for granted how our medical process and training work,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Moore with the Kentucky Medical Detachment. “The Djiboutians are in the early stages of what we train on every day and have made our standard operating procedures (theirs).”

During the exercise, Moore observed the way the patients were received and evaluated by the hospital staff. If he saw anything that could be enhanced, he would interject and show them a different way to handle the patient. For example, he showed them how to check for injures from head to toe, and techniques on how best to move patients from stretchers or gurneys to hospital beds.

The Djiboutian doctors were appreciative of the training.

“It’s really important things that we learned from them,” said doctor and 2nd Lt. Agueh Ismael. “Some things new we didn’t know; it was a great experience for us.”

Working together gave personnel from each country a chance to learn from each other.

“We were able to see similarities in their administrative process for accountability as well as to what were their strengths and weaknesses in their medical proficiency,” Moore said.

After two days of flooding the hospital staff with simulated patients and putting them through high levels of stress, both sides garnered new-found respect for each other and the skills they brought to the table.

“Getting to have hands-on training with the Djiboutian military shows both sides that we’re on common ground,” Moore said. “Their motivation and engagement with our Guardsmen was very impressive.”

Overall, the experience and multicultural interaction benefited both sides and laid the building blocks for more opportunities for both countries to train together, he added.

Having a chance to interface with American professionals was very positive experience in the hospital leader’s eyes.

“The importance of this is the chance to learn from (the Kentucky Guardsmen) and see their procedures and the assessment of the training,” Said remarked. “In this exchange, what you are looking for is how to develop right procedures in medicine.

“It was rich because we were all there in the field together.”

Those from Kentucky echoed the same sentiment.

“Our specific mission allowed us to share our knowledge base on disaster response and, hopefully, make a real impact in Djibouti’s ability to save lives if the need should arise,” McMorrow said. “There is much more we could work on with them, and I look forward to building on what we accomplished.”

The Kentucky National Guard State Partnership Program has been successfully building relationships for more than 20 years with both Ecuador and, more recently, the country of Djibouti. The goal of SPP is to link Kentucky Guardsmen with counterparts from a partner country for a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.