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About 110 Illinois-based Reserve sailors embarked on an 11-day mission this week to two African nations to teach and learn about emergency medical disaster-preparedness and provide medical care to those who might otherwise not get any, Navy officials said.

The sailors from Operational Health Support Unit from Great Lakes, Ill., are operating simultaneously in Garoua, Cameroon, and Libreville, Gabon, working with those nations’ military medical personnel in the annual West African Training Cruise Medical Outreach Program.

Though the exercise has been conducted regularly since 1979, it fits well with the U.S. European Command’s push south and east in the global war on terror, in which outposts will be placed in Eastern Europe and in Africa where forces can hunt down terrorist groups and drug runners and train host-nation militaries to protect themselves.

Medical personnel will conduct a simulated mass casualty event to prepare U.S. military personnel for humanitarian missions. And members will set up clinics in eight villages to treat people in areas where medical care is difficult to get, said Lt. j.g. David Luckett, a Navy spokesman. Patients will be able to receive general medical and dental care, physical therapy, and eye exams.

“We have a great team that will work to see as many patients as possible,” Dr. (Cmdr.) Nancy Dickey, assistant officer-in-charge for the Cameroon Team, said in a statement. “We believe we’ll be able to see between 8,000 to 12,000 people before our mission wraps up.”

The exercise began Monday and runs through July 22.

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