OKLAHOMA CITY – Five doctors with the Azerbaijan Operational Capabilities Concept Battalion exchanged medical knowledge with the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard March 28-April 1.
The Guardsmen provided a comprehensive picture of U.S. military standards of care, from the point of injury to Role 4 care, as part of the knowledge exchange under the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.
According to NATO doctrine, Roles 1-4 represent the four tiers in which medical support is organized, on a progressive basis, to conduct treatment, evacuation, resupply and functions essential to maintaining the health of the force. Medical capabilities become greater and more specialized with each tier, with Role 1 being a basic needs field clinic and Role 4 a fully functioning hospital.
Ten Guard units came together to create the joint event. Army support involved the OKNG Regional Training Institute; 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment; the 2nd Battalion 245th Aviation Battalion; the State Aviation Office; OKARNG G1; OKARNG Medical Readiness Detachment; and State Partnership Program office.
Air National Guard participants included members of the 137th Special Operations Medical Group (SOMDG), the 137th Special Operations Support Squadron and the 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.
“We wanted to show Azerbaijan the NATO medical evacuation process past a Role 2 facility,” said Maj. Carl Beyer, deputy director of the OKARNG G1. “The long-term goal is any partner we fight alongside has the same standard of care at the point of injury before getting to any medical facility, so this knowledge exchange was to demonstrate what we do and what is expected for NATO interoperability.”
First, Soldiers with the OKARNG set up a Role 1 scenario with a mannequin acting as a Soldier who had been shot. Medics from the RTI brought the victim to safety and stabilized his condition so he could be moved for treatment at a higher role.
Another scenario involved the 137th AES evacuating patients on an aircraft to a Role 3 or Role 4 location for long-term care. The 137th AES provided a hands-on demonstration using the static C-130 Hercules trainer at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base. The last scenario covered transferring a patient onto a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
“Our main objective with each engagement was to show the importance of timely care in saving lives — not just care given but the speed at which it is given,” Beyer said. “What we hope the Azerbaijan doctors take away from the different demonstrations is the holistic view of how everything nests together and to provide insight on how their current capabilities match some of ours.
“They can begin to discuss what they teach their forces and how they teach to make it more NATO interoperable,“ he said. “Their capabilities do not match every step of the process, but they can begin to develop ways to train that allows them to integrate with the parts they are able to contribute to.”
This was not the first time the Azerbaijan military has met with Oklahoma National Guard members to discuss military medical capabilities.
One of the largest medical engagements was Operation Cherokee Angel in 2007, where members of the 137th Medical Group and the 138th Fighter Wing conducted a humanitarian mission to Azerbaijan.
While the focus in 2007 was training, the focus of this most recent exchange was to learn how the Azerbaijan military trains its troops and what levels of care are within their capabilities.
“The amount of time they have with their entry-level troops is usually far less than what we have with ours,” said Lt. Col. Brian Herb, the air adviser liaison for the 137th SOMDG. “We have four to six years to invest a lot of training hours into our service members, whereas their compulsory service time for the same kind of troops doesn’t allow the same level of training, so our model won’t necessarily work for them.”
In addition to being the first medically focused knowledge exchange in more than a decade, this was also the second engagement this year for 137th Special Operations Wing air advisors.
“To be at the forefront of a new iteration of SPP events is just awesome,” Herb said. “Air advisers are focused on trying to understand cultural differences of partner nation militaries and work within that cultural framework rather than trying to fit them into American military doctrine. We want to know how the nations we might partner with in future operations can integrate with our forces, but we do not want to change their processes.”
Understanding the training doctrine of other militaries can be critical when working in proximity of one another in foreign environments. Members of the Azerbaijan military provided support to Afghanistan for many years.
“We were among the last troops who left Kabul International Airport,” said Khazar Ibrahim, Azerbaijan ambassador to the United States. “Our cooperation with (the) Oklahoma National Guard helped us in that direction because our peacekeeping battalion is getting a lot of support.”
The ambassador visited the Azerbaijan OCC Battalion troops participating in the knowledge exchange and met with civilian entities for more state partnership endeavors. Additionally, Oklahoma National Guard members traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan, to meet with the Peacekeeping Brigade of Azerbaijan Armed Forces for a strategic planning and unit training management event in early March.
Both engagements have shown the importance of a mutual understanding of the skill sets and processes of both militaries.
“Their structure is similar to ours for medical support and where the support is aligned in their units,” Beyer said. “However the difference starts with training — who can do what. I think they will discuss future ways to improve point of injury care skill sets at lower levels while maintaining the competency of the troops providing their higher levels of care. That way they can be more NATO interoperable.”