The scream of the C-130 engines filled the air as it taxied, while next to it soldiers ducked beneath the churning blades of a Bell 206 helicopter to unload a simulated patient, simultaneously the crew of Puma Eurocopter readied the aircraft for flight.
This was the culmination of a 10-day training exercise that U.S., Cameroonian, Burundi, Gabonese Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, and São Tomé e Príncipe militaries participated in Feb. 27 through Mar. 1 as a part of Central Accord 2013.
Central Accord 13, a joint multi-national exercise in which U.S., Cameroon and neighboring Central African militaries partner to promote regional cooperation while increasing aerial resupply and medical treatment capacity, was sponsored by U.S. Army Africa and hosted by the Cameroonian Defense Force.
“We trained them in the basic skills, then we practiced it with them, and now they are exercising them with us just watching. So, it validates the training that we provided,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Peter Corey, deputy commander of U.S. Army Africa.
Throughout the exercise the U.S., Cameroon, and partner nation militaries trained together side-by-side. Some of the major focuses were parachute rigging, pathfinder operations, aerial resupply, casualty evacuation, field hospital operations, and first aid techniques.
One of the major aerial resupply achievements was the first ever parachute-borne supply delivery using a Cameroonian C-130 aircraft at the Regiment Du Genie Headquarters outside Douala Feb. 27.
“Now that we have these skills if there were a national disaster we could actually parachute those meals down to refugees and actually help them more then we could before,” said Cameroon Army Zubi Thomas Awonsang, a crew chief, who helped rig the parachutes and packages for the aerial deliveries.
In addition to gaining parachute resupply capability, they also gained the ability to free drop supplies without a parachute from their Puma and Bell helicopters. This quick delivery method was another great enhancement to their resupply abilities, said Col. Eyebe Diltier, a Puma pilot in command. “Practice is important. When you have practiced you will be able to do it in a live manner. During a crisis we will be able to do it,” said Diltier. “It makes us stronger.”
One of the points that Diltier made was that although they learned the U.S. way of doing aerial resupply and casualty evacuation, they will not necessarily adopt the exact same techniques. They practiced it the U.S. way, then determined what worked for them and adapted it to meet the Cameroonian needs.
This applied to the casualty evacuation and medical training as well.
“We are tailoring it (the exercise) to meet their needs as we build this partnership,” said Maj. Borisch, Central Accord 2013 officer in charge for members of the 256th Combat Support Hospital, U.S. Army Reserves. In light of that, members of the 256th showed the Cameroon and partner nations how they run a field hospital, while tailoring to an operations environment which would be more suitable to the African nations’ need to respond to natural disasters or regional security threats, he said.
Soldiers like São Tomé e Príncipe Maj. Aranaldo da Silva Afonso, a chief medical officer who came here looking to enhance capability to respond to natural disasters, like frequent flooding in their country, got exactly what he were looking for.
During the final exercise they put their diagnostic, treatment and evacuation skills to the test while treating simulated casualties complete with bandages and fake blood who acted out the symptoms the soldiers would have to treat. They set scenarios like bus crashes with casualties that had to be removed from the scene, put on a litter, then onto a helicopter and then evacuated to a field hospital. This was so the Cameroonian and partner nations could see the process of getting the patient from the scene of the accident to definitive care, as treating patients in route was a new concept, said Brosich.
“We are giving them more tools in their tool kit, so to speak, so that after we leave they will be better able to care for their injured and wounded service members or people suffering from a natural disaster,” said Corey.
The exercise gave the Cameroon and partner nation soldiers an opportunity to put their skills to the test. From moving a patient from an accident scene to a field hospital, or from rigging the parachutes to watching them fall to earth at a landing zone marked by pathfinders; every aspect of their knowledge was put to the test.
“We are very proud to be one of the first to do this,” said Diltier of the ability to aerial delivery. Awonsang echoed the sentiment of pride in his new abilities, and said that now he feels like he is a better soldier."