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NEWS | Sept. 8, 2010

Illinois, North Dakota participate in MEDFLAG 10 in Congo

By Staff Sgt. Kassidy Snyder, Illinois National Guard

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo, - Participants arrived in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo last week and began to prepare for MEDFLAG 10, a joint medical exercise focused on humanitarian assistance that will take place Sept. 6-18.

MEDFLAG 10 is the latest in a series of exercises involving U.S. military forces and partner militaries in Africa with the aim of establishing and developing military interoperability, regional relationships, synchronization of effort and capacity building.

"As we approach the culmination of months of strenuous preparation on both our parts, we look forward to the beginning of a successful exercise and ongoing efforts with the Congolese forces," said Lt. Col. Todd Johnston, MEDFLAG 10 Task Force commander for U.S. forces.

About 100 U.S. military personnel and 250 Congolese military personnel will work together to increase the combined readiness of their medical forces to respond to humanitarian emergencies.

"When working on the same objective, it is important to have the same procedures," said Col. Gilbert Kabanda, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo surgeon general. "Without uniformity it is hard to reach our goal."

MEDFLAG is an annual medical exercise that brings together U.S. military personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout Africa. MEDFLAG was initiated in 1987 as a U.S. European Command-sponsored, bilateral medical exercise to facilitate an exchange of medical information and techniques with militaries in Africa. In 2009, the MEDFLAG exercise transitioned to AFRICOM oversight.

Congolese forces participating in the exercise include the Unit Medical Immediate Response of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

U.S. forces participating in the exercise include U.S. Africa Command; U.S. Army Africa; U.S. Marine Corps; 5th Signal Brigade; 21st Theater Sustainment Command; 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Illinois Army National Guard; 349th and 482nd Aeromedical Dental Squadrons; 404th Civil Affairs; 409th Contracting; 814th Medical Company, North Dakota Army National Guard; 772nd Civil Support Team; the 943rd and 940th Aeromedical Dental Flights; Naval Reserve Support Activity, New Orleans Team; and the 943rd and 940th Aeromedical Dental Flights.

Previous MEDFLAG exercises have taken place in Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Gabon, Georgia Republic, Ghana, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho and Malawi.