Europe-based servicemembers taking part in Georgia medical drill
There’s more to multinational war games than working together to defeat an enemy.
“It’s to put on a good face for America and the Marine Corps and live up to the standards set for us,” said Lance Cpl. Rhett Christensen, one of about 470 U.S. troops who have launched into RESCUER/MEDCEUR 2005, a two-week training mission in eastern Georgia.
“A lot of this training is interacting with another country, showing what America is and what it stands for.”
The U.S. troops, mostly Europe-based airmen, have been joined by about 475 troops from 16 other countries. They’re working on medical and crowd-control skills, and next week many will respond to a simulated terrorist attack and deal with more than 200 mock casualties. Christensen and others talked about the training by telephone from Georgia.
The exercise at the Vaziani military base, a former Russian base near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, so far has had ideal conditions, according to Christensen, a Marine Corps reservist from Company C, 4th Light Armored Regiment, based out of Salt Lake City.
“The days are in the 80s and the nights get down in the low 60s,” said the 27-year-old. “It’s been perfect training weather — not too hot, not too cold.”
Troops have established a web of radios, satellite communication, Internet, cell phones and aircraft landing systems, so commanders can control their troops, said 1st Lt. Kris Merritt, a communications specialist with the Ramstein, Germany-based Air Forces Europe, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s warfighting headquarters. Troops from the other nations have brought their communications gear as well.
“We’ll look at the whole resource of communication assets,” Merritt said. “Any way they can provide communications help is a valid resource. They’re not relying totally on the U.S.”
Airmen from the Landstuhl, Germany-based 435th Medical Squadron have given more than 60 lectures so far, and translators have been helping the English speakers connect, Dr. (Maj.) Daniel T. Smith said.
“There’s a lot of hand gestures, nodding, pointing,” Smith said. “But a lot of them speak some English and some speak fairly good English.”
Smith’s eight-member team runs the Small Portable Expeditionary Aeromedical Rapid Response (SPEARR) tent. In addition to training, his team is standing by in case any of the 900-plus troops need emergency care.
Marines from the Black Sheep Platoon, Headquarters and Security Company, 4th Light Armored Regiment of Camp Pendleton, Calif., have been training Georgian troops in the use of less-lethal ammunition such as bean bags fired from rifles, and in troop formations.
“It’s to control crowds when they’re being unruly,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Kilborne. “A way for armed forces to control the situation without using deadly force. We were doing pepper spray today.”
Kilborne said the non-U.S. troops have been keeping pace.
“They’re doing very well,” said the 21-year-old. “It’s not slowing down the training schedule at all. It’s been anything but slow.”
Airmen from RAF Mildenhall, England; RAF Lakenheath, England; Lajes Field, Azores; Aviano Air Base, Italy; and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, are among those setting up lodging and food service. Some troops have renovated the Vaziani barracks. Others are elsewhere in the country, giving out eyeglasses and performing other civil affairs jobs.
Kilborne, a Light Armored Vehicle driver and mechanic, said professional duties in Georgia are resulting in some personal payoff.
“I came here expecting to learn a lot of things from different militaries,” he said. “But we’re going to be walking away after getting to know some people really well, walking away with a couple of really good friends.”