BENGO PROVINCE, Angola - During the U.S. Africa Command sponsored PAMBALA 2017 exercise closing ceremony and VIP day, senior military leaders from Serbia and the United States exchanged flags with the host nation, the Republic of Angola, as a sign of the gratitude for the hospitality and friendships created with the Angolan Armed Forces over the two-week event.
“It was a great honor and a pleasure for the Angolan Armed Forces to receive the responsibility to prepare this exercise in order to exchange experiences with the other armed forces here,” said Angolan Armed Forces Gen. José Luís Caetano Higino de Sousa, deputy general chief of staff for the operational and development area.
About 80 military personnel from the Republic of Angola, Serbia and the United States participated in the historic medical engagement aimed at sharing best medical practices, creating a greater dialogue between the nations and learning from one another to enhance interoperability.
Highlights of the VIP day and closing ceremony included special remarks by representatives of the three nations and a demonstration of the response to a simulated infectious disease crisis by the Angolan police and firefighting units, the Angolan Armed Forces and some Serbian and Ohio National Guard personnel. In addition, military personnel from a variety of nations across the globe attended, including Hungary, which also had four military observers participate in the engagement. Hungary has been partnered with the Ohio National Guard since 1993 through the National Guard State Partnership program; Serbia has been partnered with Ohio through the SPP since 2006.
“I’m very proud to be here today and be a part of PAMBALA 2017,” said Col. Miroslav Broic of the Serbian Armed Forces. “During this medical engagement, we made new friendships and we exchanged our experience and our knowledge, so we can do good things for our people.”
The capstone of the day’s events was a demonstration by representatives of the host country’s police, firefighting and military entities. Participants simulated a massive infectious disease outbreak as well as a simulated response and containment plan for the epidemic. Participants demonstrated the outbreak of an infectious disease, the panic of a local population and the response by police, fire and military personnel to control the situation and respond to the medical crisis.
“This VIP Day represents the successful completion of a first-of-a-kind exercise that combined the medical knowledge and experience of medical professionals from Angola, Serbia and the United States,” said Col. Thomas Sodeman, commander of the Ohio National Guard forces participating in PAMBALA 2017. “In combining our efforts, we have shared and gained valuable knowledge on preventing, identifying and responding to endemic and tropical diseases, and mentored our counterparts providing medical services to men, women and children in Vale do Paraiso, Ceramica and Caxito.”
PAMBALA 2017 is the first time the U.S. has been invited to participate in an engagement in the Republic of Angola, and was made possible through the Ohio National Guard’s 11-year State Partnership Program with the Republic of Serbia, with funding assistance from U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command. The mutually beneficial combined medical engagement was organized into two phases — educational courses on infectious and hemorrhagic disease and a multi-day field hospital in the villages of Vale do Paraiso and Ceramica, located in Angola’s Bengo Province.
The Ohio National Guard hopes to continue building on the relationships made during PAMBALA 2017, to partner with the other countries again, forge new friendships and fortify old ones.