Medical exercise sends 50 troops to western Africa
Stars and Stripes August 31, 2006
LANDSTUHL, Germany — More than 50 troops will be heading to the west African nation of Benin soon to participate in a component of MEDFLAG 06, an annual medical assistance exercise in African countries.
Medical, dental and veterinary experts from a variety of locations, including stateside National Guard and reserve troops and soldiers from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, will make up Medical Task Force Benin for its roughly two-week mission.
Army Lt. Col. Thomas Axtman, executive officer for outlying clinics and chief of managed care at Landstuhl, will serve as commander for the Benin task force.
“This is an exciting opportunity, not only to work with our brothers and sisters in the reserve and National Guard, but a wonderful opportunity to interact with other people, experience other cultures and give a helping hand,” Axtman said.
About 250 servicemembers from U.S. Air Forces in Europe, U.S. Army Europe, Marine Forces Europe, Naval Forces Europe, Air Force Reserve Command and the North Dakota Air National Guard will participate in MEDFLAG 06 from Sept. 3-17, according to USAFE public affairs office.
This year’s exercise — to take place in the western African nations of Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Senegal — is led by Headquarters USAFE, with the 52nd Medical Group from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, as the lead unit, according to USAFE public affairs.
Benin is a country of nearly 8 million that lies between Nigeria and Togo. The risk of major infectious disease in the country is very high, according to the CIA World Factbook. Life expectancy at birth in Benin is about 53 years compared to almost 78 years in America, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Axtman said malaria is a big concern, and he expects to see a large majority of skin ailments among those treated in Benin.
The Benin mission is planned for three phases. The first phase is an educational exchange between the U.S. and Beninese military on such topics as disaster management and water purification. The Beninese will also educate U.S. servicemembers on tropical diseases and endemic disease in Benin.
The next phase involves two three-day medical civil assistance programs where Axtman expects between 200 and 300 patients each day. Soldiers will treat patients with medical and dental ailments and also administer plenty of immunizations.
The third and final phase involves a mass-casualty exercise.