SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon National Guard is helping its State Partnership program partner, Vietnam, develop the country's first International Trauma Life Support training chapter.
The goal of ITLS is to provide knowledge and experience to recognize, assess and care for critical trauma patients and ensure timely transport to the emergency department.
Vietnam and the Oregon National Guard have been partners in the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program since 2012, building trust and respect with a shared commitment to regional and international security.
Beginning with a site survey in September 2022, Oregon Air National Guard Lt. Col. Christopher Webb traveled to Vietnam to meet with Vietnam’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations to design a plan and help set up the country's first ITLS chapter. As a traditional Guardsman, Webb is the 102nd CERFP medical element commander, a detachment of the 142nd Wing Medical Group, and works as a physician’s assistant in private practice in Eugene, Oregon.
“When INDOPACOM (United States Indo-Pacific Command) Global Peace Operations Initiative first approached me about this project, they sold it as a two- to three-year process,” Webb said. “The multiphased plan we developed made it happen in about 14 months, so it was pretty aggressive.”
Vietnamese medical personnel deploy on an annual United Nations peacekeeping mission to South Sudan to staff a Level 2 hospital. Certification in ITLS meets the U.N. predeployment requirement for trauma training. Until recently, Vietnam had largely depended on outside training to meet this requirement.
During Webb’s second trip to Vietnam in February, two ITLS classes were conducted over two weeks by Oregon instructors and Vietnamese ITLS instructor candidates. During the training, eight Vietnamese physicians were fully certified as ITLS instructors and 50 students were certified as ITLS providers.
“Each class certifies more Vietnamese in ITLS so they can deploy on the U.N. mission, plus we are selecting students to be developed into future ITLS instructors,” Webb said. “We are also developing the administrative infrastructure necessary to support a chapter along with the critical roles of medical director and chapter coordinator.”
Phase 3 was conducted in August, with the two ITLS courses, bolstering the overall training to over 120 Vietnamese soldiers and health care providers and producing nearly 20 Vietnamese ITLS instructors. The curriculum is based on tactical combat casualty care guidelines aimed at saving lives while under immediate threat.
During Phase 4 in December, 23 Vietnamese physicians and nurses completed three days of training. A decision on chapter certification is expected by mid-January.
"The chapter will reside at Military Hospital 175 in Ho Chi Minh City, but will train U.N. deploying members from all over the country,” Webb said. “Once this chapter is fully certified, Vietnam plans to grow another chapter in the northern part of the country.”
Ho Chi Minh City Military Hospital 175 is a dedicated unit for military personnel with a 1,500-bed capacity for residents of Southern Vietnam.
If all goes as expected, Vietnam’s inaugural ITLS chapter will be formally recognized in April, becoming just the 10th Asian country with an official ITLS training chapter.
Several other key partners have been instrumental in the process, including the Office of Defense Cooperation – Vietnam, the Defense Institute for Medical Operations and the Global Peace Operations Initiative. GPOI is working with U.S. and international stakeholders to sustain operational effectiveness in peace operations and build the capacity of the United Nations and regional organizations to conduct such missions as the deployment in South Sudan. In 2019, the GPOI first reached out to Webb about this project.
According to the U.N. Medical Support Manual, Vietnam must have advanced “pre-hospital trauma life support or equivalent training within 12 months of their deployment.” DIMO, GPOI and the Oregon National Guard provided this support during the training, working toward the goal of generating 120 Vietnamese medical providers and nearly 20 instructors.
A humanitarian crisis has evolved in Sudan with the ongoing armed conflict, threatening the country’s fragile health system.
The Vietnam medical team will deploy to Bentiu, South Sudan, at a Level 2 hospital, which will provide basic surgery and intensive care, advanced life support, basic lab and radiology, dental and hospital support.
While attending the Indo-Pacific Military Health Exchange Conference in Malaysia Sept. 26-29, Webb described his work. This generated an energetic discussion about the importance of the State Partnership Program among the active-duty personnel attending the symposium.
Following the lecture, Webb was recognized by Col. Susan Moran, PACAF Command surgeon, for his work to establish Vietnam’s first ITLS chapter and for “years of relationship-building with Oregon SPP partner nations.” He also met with Navy Capt. Jeffrey Bitterman, INDOPACOM Command surgeon, and Maj. Gen. Paula Lodi, the Army’s 18th Medical Command surgeon general, to explain how the SPP can lead to better relationships with partner countries.