On 2/9/2010 10:37:28 AM Captain Lauren Byrd wrote:
My new year started with a wonderful opportunity to participate in a Traveling Contact Team to Rwanda. The purpose of the TCT was to provide the Rwandan Defense Force with familiarization and orientation to U.S. Air Force concepts in Aerospace Medicine including physical examinations, aeromedical waivers, medical recommendations for flying and medication use by aircrew.
The audience was comprised of 21 personnel from the RDF, both army and air force officers, including aircrew, medical professionals, and airfield operations managers. From the beginning, I was incredibly impressed with the professionalism and knowledge of the attendees. Maj. Joseph Demali and Maj Gregory Seshengero both graduated from the Air Command and Staff College in-residence course at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., while Capt. Claver Karara graduated first in his class from the Airfield Management Course at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
Capt. John Miles, a flight surgeon from the 509th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, presented 12 current topics in aerospace medicine during the three-day event. Capt. (Dr.) Gisanura Ngabo, the only physician in attendance, was particularly interested in instituting methods in the RDF to determine whether or not aircrew were medically-qualified for flying duties.
During our visit, Captain Ngabo took Captain Miles and I on a tour of Kanombe Military Hospital in Kigali. I was in awe of the capability that the Rwandan military possessed to provide medical care to the military forces and civilian population. The facility, which serves as a referral hospital for many other health clinics in the region, possessed a full complement of primary and specialty care and ancillary services.
As I had the opportunity to meet each of the participants throughout the week, I asked each of them what they wanted to get out of the TCT. Each response was the same: they all wanted to learn concepts to improve the flight safety of their air force. All of the participants stressed the importance of having, not only medically healthy aircrew, but a fit and healthy force.
Before I arrived in Rwanda, I had a basic understanding of the capability of the Rwandan Air Force. However, I had no way to expect the knowledge, professionalism and hospitality that I experienced. It was an incredible opportunity and I hope that I was able to leave the audience with tools and methods to improve their capabilities. They definitely made a lasting impression on me.