RAF MILDENHALL, England — The Third Air Force will lead more than 200 U.S. military members — most from bases in Europe — to South Africa next month to provide medical care in remote villages and share knowledge with their South African military counterparts.

The exercise, which will start shortly after July 4 and last about two weeks, will include personnel from Lajes Field in the Azores, Ramstein and Spangdahlem air bases in Germany, Aviano Air Base and Caserma Ederle in Italy, and RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall in England. It will also have a few dozen reserve and Air National Guard members from the States.

Third Air Force headquarters is at RAF Mildenhall.

Doctors will provide medical care to people at remote clinics, while civil engineers repair faulty plumbing and install better electrical systems, among other projects, at the clinics.

At the same time, U.S. and South African military members will test their ability to respond together to an emergency. In this case, the scenario involves a major flood that has overtaxed the capabilities of South Africa, leading it to request U.S. help.

“We will be working side-by-side with the South African military,” said Col. Russell Richardson, director of logistics for Third Air Force and the ranking U.S. officer on the exercise.

Capt. Greg Ready, a medical planner for Third Air Force, said every aspect of the exercise, from public affairs to transportation to medical, will be duplicated by the Americans and the host nation.

“There’s not a single aspect that’s going to be only South African or only U.S.,” said Ready, who has traveled to the country several times in the run-up to the exercise.

The exercise will conclude with a mass-casualty drill. The scenario for that will be the crash of an airplane carrying flood refugees from the area.

“That’s the crux of the exercise,” Ready said. “That will show how much we’ve learned those first 14 days.”

Dr. (Lt. Col.) Brian Affleck, deputy commander of the 48th Medical Operations Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, said South African health care is first rate, but the villages that will receive help are remote, and the clinics are sometimes staffed only by a nurse or two. At one clinic, he said, a nurse and two nurses-in-training care for the health needs of 80,000 people.

While U.S. doctors will provide everything from dental care to eyeglasses, they also will learn from these overworked nurses, who have expertise in such things as tuberculosis and malaria because they see them so often.

“We’re going to let these nurses train us and make us smarter,” said Affleck, who also has visited the area to prepare for the exercise.

Working with the American medics will be members of the South African military medical services. They will send a contingent that will mirror the American one, Affleck said.

“It’s going to double our efforts,” he said. Plus, he said the South African doctors will train the Americans on such things as sub-Saharan diseases, while the Americans teach them more about surgeries required after combat.

Also, he said, his hospital will send a deployable hospital, which will be set up at the South African air force base at Hoedspruit.

“When it comes to deployable medicine, the Air Force is in the lead,” he said.

The equipment is lighter and takes less time to set up then that used by the other services, Affleck said. Therefore, medical people from the Navy and Army will be on hand to observe how the deployable hospital is used.

Ready said the goal of the exercise is to develop a working relationship with a country in the Third Air Force area of responsibility. If the need arises for real in the future, he said, people will be familiar to one another.

Added Richardson: “This is why I came to Third Air Force.”

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