Posts Tagged 'FLINTLOCK 10'

Providing Medical and Veterinary Care in Senegal

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By U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Christiana Porter

FLINTLOCK 10 Public Affairs, U.S. Africa Command

Toubab is what the locals call us. It’s a term used for those other than Senegalese until they know you, then by your name. When the Senegalese said it, especially the children, it was almost like a term of endearment, they were happy to see us. They want to shake your hand and say thank you. No matter what language they speak, their gratefulness is communicated.

I don’t know that one could even imagine the impact a Medical Civil Action Program (MEDCAP)/Veterinarian Civil Action Program (VETCAP) can have on small underdeveloped communities in Africa, unless you are physically there. I have had the humbling experience of not only observing the MEDCAP in action but also taking an active roll in assisting some of the doctors. From assisting the dentists by calming a little girl preparing for her tooth to be pulled, to being part of the VETCAP and sticking needles of vaccine into the necks of cows, I had an experience of a lifetime.

Spending time with this particular team conducting a MEDCAP/VETCAP on the Senegal-Mauritania border, gave me a whole new appreciation for those in the medical field. The selflessness of the individuals on these teams, dedicating their time to travel halfway across the world, to remote destinations with the intent to assist small communities in administering health care, is incomparable. This MEDCAP and others like it are in direct support of Africa Command’s overall Joint Special Operations Task Force-Tran Sahara (JSOTF-TS) mission of providing security and stability to countries in Africa while reducing local support to terrorist activities. The programs bring together U.S. military doctors, partner nation and host nation doctors, Red Cross and Peace Corps volunteers in a concerted effort to bring medicine to needing communities in Africa.

This particular team was composed of United States military doctors, dentists, medics, veterinarians, Dutch doctors and communication specialists. Additionally there was an in country team led by Gene, including civil affairs personnel, Matt, Kirk, Chris, and Senegalese operations coordinator/interpreter, Baidy who managed the logistics, planning, and organization of the overall effort. These men were crucial in the success of the MEDCAP.

The team traveled first 348 KM northeast to the first MEDCAP site in Rosso, Senegal, then follow on 105 km to Taredji for the second MEDCAP, both locations on the Senegal-Mauritania border. Along the way we were joined by 13 translators from the University of Dakar, some English majors and some English teachers. Additionally there were a few medical students, also from the University of Dakar that came along to assist the U.S. doctors. These interpreters and students were just as enthusiastic and eager to be a part of the MEDCAP, as the MEDCAP team themselves. The MEDCAP teammates have communicated on many occasions how vital the interpreters were and how wonderful they were to work with. One interpreter, Yebhe, who is an English student at the University in Dakar, Senegal, said it was her third MEDCAP and she really enjoyed the work and is humbled by what the MEDCAP teams do to assist “her people” in the desolate villages of Senegal.

For each MEDCAP location tents are set up for triage, public health classes, and a waiting area to see a doctor. There is a place for the pharmacy and rooms used for dental and optometry. Approximately 25 patients at a time are led into the medical facility, now MEDCAP site, first stopping off at the public health tent. There Simeon, Public Health nurse, and Elena, prevention medicine, along with an interpreter and two peace corps volunteers, gave instruction on preventing malaria and AIDS and then providing deworming medication to children under six. Next the patients moved all together to the triage tent where interpreters Yehbe, Sadibou, and Sane, under the guidance and supervision of teamlead and medic, Charles Martin, determine ailment and what type of doctor they see based on what the patient is complaining of. The patient either goes to see the dentist, Tad and Lhea, the eye doctor, Mark or general Carl, Rob, and Dutch MDs, Emiel and Maurice. The thirteen interpreters were spread throughout the camp assisting the MEDCAP team in assessing each individual ailment.

Separately, each location had a VETCAP set up which administered vaccinations for cows, donkeys, horses, and goats, as well as prepared cows for artificial insemination.

On the first day of the MEDCAP in Rosso I spent half the day with the veterinarians, conducting a VETCAP. Rick, military veterinarian, lead the team of medics out there and was assisted by two Senegalese vet students. The vets spend all day in the baking sun with cows, horses, and goats, conducting vaccinations. I was given the opportunity to vaccinate ten cows by aggressively sticking a thick, long needle into the neck of the feisty animals. I was amazed at just how much effort it takes for the few I did and the vets spent eight hours vaccinating a total of 459 cows, 360 sheeps, and 113 goats, just in the first day.

The MEDCAP team did everything they could to see as many people as possible, nearly exceeding 1000 people over the course of five days and two locations.

3 May 2010

The MEDCAP team had a day before the MEDCAP in Taredji to go through some training and familiarization with the local hospital. All the medical facilities in this area depend on the hospital in Taredji. Difficult cases come to this hospital. One doctor and one nurse for 11983 patients. After the presentation the doctor asked the team what each person did and what they might need to do their jobs for the next three days. The medical staff in Taredji was so eager to assist the MEDCAP team as they were so humbled by our efforts in their community.

Not only did the process run through smoother, there were also a lot more local doctor assistance–not only at the MEDCAP site but also at the VETCAP site. This is what Flintlock was designed to do, support the local nationals, not do it for them.

The people at this site seemed, to the doctors, a lot more sick than at the last site.

It seemed quite a bit hotter today, but still was a successful day.

5 May 2010

I have spent the last nine days with this MEDCAP team and thought I had everything I needed for my article until today. We were briefed that there would be no more VETCAP due to the lack of funds and what a tragedy that would be to the community in which the VETCAP was occurring. Kirk, Team SGT, suggested we take up donations so that we can get some vial of vaccines to vaccinate a few more cows. Rick, head Vet, explained how overwhelmingly grateful the villagers were for our assistance and day after day remind the Vets what a blessing it is to have them in their village.


Snapshot: Bamako, Mali

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By Kimberly Tiscione, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment/Flintlock Public Affairs

I recently had the opportunity to spend a month in Bamako, Mali, while supporting Exercise Flintlock 10. Flintlock is the special operations forces exercise, conducted by Special Operations Command Africa with participation of key European nations, focused on military interoperability and capacity-building with partner nations throughout the Trans-Saharan region of Africa.

It was my first time traveling to Africa and I honestly didn’t know what to expect of the citizens, the city or the culture. What I’ve learned is that Malians are very hospitable, the city is quite large, there’s an active marketplace and physical fitness is widely common.

Bambara is the local language in Bamako. Many people in the service industry speak French, maybe with a little of English too. Few in our group knew much French, but we learned. We also found that Spanish and Italian were similar enough to help us communicate. The Malians we worked with regularly taught us French and Bambara during our month-long stay.

The dress in Bamako is a combination of traditional African dress and western influenced design. Shoes are different forms of sandals. We also noticed a lot of clothes from America that appeared to have been donated. President Obama t-shirts and stickers on scooters were everywhere!

African traditions haven’t been lost in this city either. We especially noticed the local influence in art and music. Women also still carry things like baskets and bags balanced on their heads and babies on their lower back, secured by a light-weight cloth.

Driving in the city is an adventure. We had contracted drivers, which was probably the safest bet for us because we were unfamiliar with the city and driving norms. There are paved streets, with vehicles and pedestrians all sharing the space. Police direct traffic at intersections, including traffic circles. There is definitely a culturally understood manner in which all of these elements mix together. I had a white-knuckled grip more than once.

You may see vehicle makes from Toyota to Mercedes, in sizes varying from SUVs to small sedans. There are yellow Mercedes taxi sedans for hire. But the most popular form of mass transportation we saw were green van-sized busses (think Scooby Doo van) with routes throughout the city. This also just may be the Power K scooter capital of the world. Scooters are largely popular and often seen transporting multiple people.

Though poverty is pretty widespread, the marketplace is active. We mainly saw open markets that line the roads and city centers. You can buy anything and everything you need for life support and entertainment at roadside stands. People also sell items like fruits, pre-paid phone cards, fly swatters and cigarettes at street intersections to drivers and passengers in cars and on scooters. We even found a grocery store we nick-named Wal-mart: it was two-story and sold everything from four-wheelers, to beverages, to food and toiletries.

Sorry, guys: No Starbucks or McDonald’s here. But the food in our hotel was good and we enjoyed meals on the local market. You could buy kabobs and pizza in many places. Don’t miss out! Ask around for the most reputable local eateries. You’ll enjoy a good meal without being rushed.

Another cultural icon: Football is King in Bamako. There is a local team and excitement is building for the World Cup. We also saw several local youth and adult leagues. And every night on our way home from work we saw players doing physical training, practicing and playing games. Soccer jerseys are a hot commodity. And as a World Cup sponsor, Orange, proclaims on a local billboard, there are many countries with many languages, but we all have one in common: football!
If you’re visiting Bamako, I recommend the following:

1. Be familiar with a little bit of French. It will make your trip much more enjoyable.
2. CFA (the local currency, pronounced “see-fa”) is the only way, and surely the safest, to make purchases in many local places.
3. Ask your hosts to show you the local markets and eateries.
4. Travel safe and smart. It’s a big city.
5. Bring sunscreen, bug juice and a hat. It’s HOT!
6. Bring clothes that are comfortable, but stylish.
7. Smile and engage the local citizens.

Ouagadougou by Bus

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By Eric Elliott, U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs

Each day during much of FLINTLOCK 10, those of us assigned to the Multinational Coordination Center would travel by bus from our hotels in Ouagadougou through the outskirts of the city to Camp Baangre near the village of Kamboinse. Morning and evening, dozens of exercise participants from more than a dozen different countries would make that 45 minute drive and for many it was a priceless glimpse into daily Burkina daily life.

Ouagadougou is a city of more than a million inhabitants and has traffic typical of any modern capital. Fortunately we would travel opposite the normal flow of Burkinabe commuters. So each morning and evening we would pass long lines of cars and trucks that would give way to carts of wood, stones, sand, vegetables or other goods drawn by jaded donkeys or pushed by weary young men as we moved away from the city. Often our progress would be slowed by a donkey or goat loose in the road or a group of men trying to move an exceptionally heavy cart. There were also the buses full of people with boxes, bundles, suit cases, chicken cages bikes, piled high, defying gravity, on top.

And everywhere were people, young and old, on bicycles and motorcycles. Women in colorful dresses with a baby strapped to their backs or with a toddler clutching her back. Men in traditional outfits that would billow in the wind or three or four teenagers balanced precariously on a single bike.

Once I expressed my amazement about a young lady who rode by on a bike with a large platter of papayas balanced on her head and a baby on her back and the Nigerian officer sitting next to me snickered and said, “Brother, this is Africa.”

Along the side of the road, there was the constant movement of people walking. We would see the mass of bright African cloths with an occasional glimpse of Bob Marley or Barrack Obama from the back of a t-shirt. We would see groups of children going to school and often one or two would break away from the crowd to run waving after the bus.

What has always amazed American visitors is the ability of many African women to balance almost anything on their heads. Sacks of grain, tubs full of shoes or toys, bundles of wood, trays of fruit, bags of cloths, a broken bench are just a few of the things I saw conveyed on the heads walking or riding past the bus. Or there were the groups of four or five teenage girls standing in a circle gossiping, each with a plateau of mangoes or papayas poised on their braids.
Behind the people we would see the shops and stands selling everything imaginable. It was like driving through a shopping center with themes that would change by the block. There was the block with the furniture stores. Row upon row of couches, love seats or recliners on display on the side of the road and trestle tables piled high with fifteen or twenty twin sized mattresses. Next would be the hardware stores with metal gates, electric fans, bricks and lumber for sale. At the next corner there were people hawking cloths, toys, fruits, vegetables, grain. All the necessities of life seemed available along this single stretch of highway.

Usually our bus driver would put on some sort of entertainment for us. Sometimes it was African music videos. Other times it would be African sitcoms that would leave those who understood French hysteric with laughter and leaving those who don’t understand French wondering what was so funny.

On my last day on the bus I was surrounded my officers from Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Morocco and Burkina Faso, and the driver put on a Kenny Rogers CD. I thought it as an odd choice until they all energetically began singing “you picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.”

Then I remembered the words of the Nigerian officer, the one who was singing loudest about his four hungry children and his crop in the field.

“Brother, this is Africa,” he said.

(Note: Eric Elliott, U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs, was in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, while supporting Exercise Flintlock, a multi-national military exercise conducted in various Trans-Saharan countries to develop military capacity of African, American and European participants.)

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