More than 40 medical practitioners and experts came together at U.S. Africa Command Event Center to discuss how to better cultivate and leverage partnership during the Command Surgeon’s Conference conducted at the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, Germany at Kelley Barracks, July 15-17, 2014.
The three-day annual conference, organized by the AFRICOM Command Surgeon’s Office, in coordination with the Medical Operations and Logistics Branch, J4, brought together representatives from the command’s component and sub-unified commands, Department of State, and for the first time, European partners which included members from France and Germany and two organizations from the Netherlands.
“The purpose of the conference is to come together to discuss face-to-face how we can collaborate and synchronize our medical and health-related activities, ensuring alignment with AFRICOM’s objectives and lines of effort for the command’s theater of operations,” said Lt. Col. Sueann Ramsey, chief of Force Health Protection (FHP) Branch of the AFRICOM Command Surgeon Office. “This meeting will also help us to identify gaps and develop the guidance necessary to maintain the command’s health and medical related readiness. This will allow seamless coordination and synchronization of all medical/health priority of effort, plans and engagements on the African continent.”
The event included break-out sessions, which allowed participants to discuss current issues and areas of concern such as FHP and medical operations.
During the command surgeon session, top medical experts from U.S. Army Africa, Naval Forces Africa, Air Forces Africa, Marine Forces Africa, Special Operations Command Africa and Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa were able to provide direct input and feedback to the AFRICOM command surgeon and staff.
“This conference has done a really good job of bringing our components, the Department of State and our European partners together,” said Lt. Cmdr. Shannon Stout, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response of the Marine Forces Europe/Africa. “We were able to discuss the resources that are available and, for us at our level, to shape how we want to plan and integrate those (resources) so that we can pass that back to our line counterparts in the operations department with a unified voice, which is also very important for shaping how we want to proceed with both mission accomplishment as well as obtaining objectives and exercising on the continent.”
The topics of interest during the FHP session were disease and injury surveillance, occupational and environmental health assessment and medical intelligence. Members in this session included various public-health officers, environmental science and engineering officers, bio-environmental engineers and veterinarians.
The medical operations group, comprising of various medical planners, discussed issues affecting medical capabilities and how to bolster health service support to support forces on the ground.
On a broader scale, the conference provided participating members opportunities to discuss how the United States could combine efforts and resources with its Europeans partners who have extensive working experience on the African continent.
“Africa is big,” said Ramsey. “We have the “tyranny of distance,” which does not favor rapid and timely medical capability to support U.S. forces on the continent. We have only one location that provides higher level of care beyond the basic medic … that is at the Expeditionary Medical Facility at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. Medical operations is very critical to tie those capabilities from our European partners, as well as our components’ medical practitioners and planners, who have missions on the continent and have to ensure that their capabilities tie with the mission to support medical operations.”
The conference’s theme is “Cultivating and Leveraging Partnerships: Sharing resources in a Global Environment.” This conference provides a unique opportunity for the stakeholders to network with other members after understanding the capability each component and the European partners bring to the table. According to the organizers of the event, the meeting sets the stage for the collaboration and synchronization of those medical capabilities.
“It is critical that we have an opportunity to conduct face-to-face discussions with our European partners and to provide our components with awareness of what assets we may be able to tap into for supporting the AFRICOM mission,” Ramsey said.