Military medical event strengthens international partnerships
Story by Russell Toof on 09/24/2019
LVIV, Ukraine — More than 80 military and civilian medical personnel from nine countries, including the Surgeon Generals of Ukraine and Poland, gathered here Sept. 17 19 for the 27th annual Multinational Military Medical Engagement.
Hosted by Regional Health Command Europe, the theme for this year’s conference was “What Happens After Damage Control,” and focused on rehabilitative care that occurs after lifesaving surgery and consisted of a combination of lectures, tours, and observations of multinational military medical training.
“One of the best parts about coming to events like this is the opportunity to touch base with our colleagues who are health care professionals,” said Brig. Gen. Ron Stephens, the RHCE commanding general. “This is the largest participation we’ve ever had. It’s a significant endeavor and it’s been well worth the time we’ve invested to put this year’s event together. I’d also like to thank our Ukrainian counterparts for hosting us this year.”
Stephens, who is also the U.S. Army Europe command surgeon, added “damage control surgery is critical in battle but what is just as critical, is what happens after the damage control surgery. The opportunity to hear how the different countries look to improve life and share those ideas, is why we’re here.”
Lectures took place at the Ukraine National Army Academy with participants traveling on the last two days to the Military Medical Center of Western Region and the Joint Multinational Training Group Ukraine in Yavoriv.
On the first day of the conference, Stephens was also invited by Lt. Gen. Pavlo Tkachuk, the Ukraine National Army Academy commander, to participate in a short wreath laying ceremony honoring recent graduates of the academy who have died in the current conflict.
“The advantage of this exchange is that we get to learn exactly where each of our partner nations are at in terms of capacity, capability and what interoperability already exists,” said Col. Andrew Baxter, the RHCE regional nurse executive. Baxter was the lead planner for this year’s conference.
During a visit to Ukraine’s Military Medical Center, participants watched videos on two Ukrainian Soldiers who had suffered severe battlefield injuries and went through their rehabilitation at the center. The videos documented their progress throughout the rehabilitation process. A surprise visit by those two Soldiers prompted a standing ovation from those in attendance.
I was speechless when I saw those Soldiers back in uniform and saluting,” said Col. Slawomir Chmiel, the deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense for Poland. “I have so much respect for the growth of the medical capabilities here in Ukraine.”
On the last day of the conference, participants traveled to the JMTGU and witnessed three different demonstrations of Ukraine Soldiers showcasing the ways they evacuate and transport injured personnel from the battlefield.
Several hundred Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division are currently on a seven-month rotation to the Ukraine, training alongside their Ukrainian counterparts. Two of those Soldiers attended the MMME.
“I look at training from a tactical, operational and strategic level and this has hit all three aspects,” said Capt. Ian Rymer, assigned to 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Rymer is currently acting as a task force surgeon at the JMTGU.
All the participants had opportunities to further build their relationships with one another in a non-military capacity as they had a private tour, show and dinner at the Lviv opera house and a cultural tour of Lviv on the last night.
“We hope this conference met your expectations,” said Stephens during his closing remarks. “Next year will be even better.”
Planning for the 2020 MMME is already underway. The conference is tentatively scheduled to take place in Tbilisi, Georgia in September.