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U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Daniel Lowe keeps a watchful eye on his students while instructing cardiopulmonary resuscitation class during a multinational medical training exercise.
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Daniel Lowe keeps a watchful eye on his students while instructing cardiopulmonary resuscitation class during a multinational medical training exercise. (Courtesy of the U.S. Air Force)

RAF LAKENHEATH — Imagine a devastating earthquake the likes of which recently rocked Peru striking an Eastern European country, quickly overwhelming the country’s ability to cope with the humanitarian fallout.

Ready to help, airmen across U.S. Air Forces in Europe deploy within days to administer medical aid and provide other help in the aftermath.

That was the scenario roughly 50 airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing faced during a recent training exercise in Moldova, a small country tucked inconspicuously between Ukraine and Romania.

Troops from the 48th Medical Group mustered in England and deployed to the Bulboaca military training site outside the former Soviet bloc state capital of Chisinau to work alongside representatives of 13 other Eastern European countries for two weeks of shared learning, heightened readiness and a few lessons in cultural sensitivities.

Capt. Joseph Indomenico, 35, of Eustis, Fla., helped organize what he described as an “in-the-spirit-of-NATO- partnership” training exercise that Moldova held as it prepares for possible entry into NATO.

“It’s a huge morale booster,” Indomenico said. “The folks learned a lot about themselves and their unit.”

Maj. Jeffrey Molloy, 32, a doctor from Sacramento, Calif., normally spends his days practicing internal medicine at the RAF Lakenheath hospital, tending to chronic illnesses and complex diagnoses.

But in Moldova, he served as a triage doctor, taking in the “wounded” and quickly deciding who needs an emergency tracheotomy, who requires only some aspirin and water, and, ultimately, who visits the mortician.

The task was complicated by working with fellow physicians in an assortment of languages.

“The international language of medicine and science is English. Despite that, they could not all speak English,” Molloy said. “We were able to appreciate the stresses of communicating in a foreign language.”

But Molloy also picked up a few new skills from the foreign physicians.

“There was a lot of learning,” he said. “Their docs are just as smart as our docs. We can show them some of our technology, and they can show us some of their techniques.”

Senior Airman Jeffrey Guerttman, 23, of Navarre, Fla., traded his normal routine in the labor-and-delivery section of the RAF Lakenheath hospital for a role as a student in a week of lectures from foreign counterparts and on-the-go clinical technicians.

“After the Medcap [medical civil action program], some of the locals brought us food and wine,” he said. “They were all very hospitable.”

He said the deployment taught him patience and understanding.

“You have to be patient because of the language barrier and understanding of the way other cultures see and do stuff.”

And if the real thing hits, these troops say they’re ready.

“We have now taken the physical hospital and set it up and taken it down three times, the last time in about three hours,” Molloy said.

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