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NEWS | March 27, 2009

Azerbaijani surgeons observe EMEDS during Vigilant Guard

By Staff Sgt. S. Patrick McCollum National Guard Bureau

CAMP SANTIAGO, P.R. - Trauma surgeons of the Azerbaijani military were here for the Vigilant Guard exercise this week to observe the Expeditionary Medical System in action and adapt it to their own military.

"This is the first time I've traveled outside of Azerbaijan to participate in an event like this," said Lt. Col. Shamsaddin Rzayev, chief of trauma surgery for central medical hospital of ministry of defense, Azerbaijan.

The EMEDs was set up to deal with the influx of wounded citizens struck by the scenario's combination of an earthquake and tsunami hitting the island.

"This is an EMEDS familiarization," said Maj. Vanchai Vongchanyakul, escorting officer for the Azerbaijani soldiers and biomedical science officer with the 137th Medical Group of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, who has a state partnership with the country. "So we've invited them to come observe and participate in our EMEDS exercise."

Citizen-Airmen from the 161st Medical Group of the Arizona Air National Guard set up the EMEDS, which is a 10-bed hospital that provides surgical capability, critical care capability, chemical and bio capabilities, as well as routine medical care," said Air Force Master Sgt. George Stevens, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Medical Readiness Training Site for the Michigan Air National Guard. "And ancillary (services), meaning radiology, pharmacy, laboratory capabilities."

Guard officials said the EMEDS fills a vital role in helping civilians after a disaster.

"It's already shown its worthiness in Kansas after a pretty bad F5 tornado took out an entire town and (Hurricane) Katrina," said Air Force Col. Michael Ward, the 161st commander. "From a homeland perspective, it's an important part of our mission as homeland defenders."

Azerbaijan wants its military to meet the standards of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and familiarize themselves with NATO equipment, such as stretchers and the EMEDS package itself.
As a strategic partner, Vongchanyakul said, Azerbaijan's knowledge of American medical practice will help the joint agenda.

"They had 200 peacekeeping troops in Iraq with us," Vongchanyakul said. "Therefore, when we interoperate, we would like to be able to, if you will, sing from the same page. They want to be NATO, so any way we can help them to be NATO is essential. This is one of the steps."