By Air National Guard Capt. Tony Vincelli
Idaho National Guard
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (7/19/12) - A joint National Guard and active duty Army team of medical and support personnel traveled to the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia June 23-29 to share best practices with the country’s military medical first responders while continuing positive momentum in the relations between the two countries, officials said.
The Idaho National Guard joined forces with U.S. Army Pacific’s 18th Medical Command to conduct a Subject Matter Expert Exchange between U.S. medics and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces medical personnel to meet critical objectives of both the National Guard’s State Partnership Program and USARPAC’s Theater Security Cooperation Program, said Air Force Capt. Christopher Borders, the Idaho National Guard State Partnership Program coordinator.
“Both programs mirror each other in that we build reliable regional partners through sharing best practices, establishing a level of interoperability and assisting the Cambodians in building their professional capacity, as well as ours,” said Borders, adding that the exchange is also important to USPACOM’s Theater Campaign Plan.
The Idaho National Guard began its state partnership mission with Cambodia in 2009 and Borders said Guard members from Idaho are able to provide a critical component to the U.S.-Cambodia relationship that active-duty counterparts cannot: continuity.
Unlike the active component, which often rotates personnel every one to three years, Borders said Guard members often build their entire careers in one organization or location.
“Our continuity is reciprocated in our host nation counterparts, who tend to get into a position and stay there awhile,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity to build relationships and friendships. At the end of the day, that is what it is all about.”
During one of the highlights of the subject matter expert exchange, Army Staff Sgt. Aaron Bray, a medic assigned to the Idaho National Guard’s Charlie Company, 145th Brigade Support Battalion, broke open a U.S. Army issued combat lifesaver bag to show its contents.
RCAF personnel talked about the contents of their equivalent bag, but cited a lack of money and the inability to get critical pieces of equipment they need as a common problem.
After spending a few minutes finding a handful of everyday items like sticks, plastic water bottles, and ballpoint pens, plastic wrap, and a bamboo mat, Army Master Sgt. Paul Eivins, a combat medic from 18th MEDCOM with 26 years of service, demonstrated numerous medical scenarios where those items could be used to treat and stabilize a multitude of injuries in a first response situation.
“Through this exchange, we’ve learned that, although technology is good, you don’t always have to have the newest things to save lives in the field,” said Eivins, who gave each of the RCAF medical providers a lifesaver bag at the end of the exchange, hoping they will study it closer and discover more ways to come up with low-cost equivalent items to share with their first responders.
The week concluded with the promise of future cooperative missions between the Idaho National Guard, 18th MEDCOM and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. According to Army Col. Jacob Dlugosz, the 18th MEDCOM current operations officer-in-charge, there are plans for at least two joint missions next year, with a possibility of a third based upon the foundation laid out this year.
“We had a very successful mission with Idaho. We’ve developed a good relationship, a good rapport and I think it will just continue to get better and better.” Dlugosz said.
Cambodian Capt. Prum Sanghoun, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces doctor, said, “I was very pleased to be a part of this exchange and I would like to do this as often as possible in the future.”