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NEWS | Sept. 8, 2010

Kansas medics train with Armenian military

By Tech. Sgt. Leigh Bellinger, Defense Media Activity-Ramstein

ZARH, Armenia - The Armenian military deployed its only rapid response medical package for the first time during a recent medical field training exercise here.

Joining them in Armenia were medical professionals from the 3rd Air Force and the Kansas Air National Guard, who watched the expeditionary medical support go up and simulated patients brought through for treatment by Armenian doctors and nurses.

"What I'm looking for is their thought process on how they're going to employ EMEDS," said Lt. Col. James Baldock, a 3rd AF deputy surgeon. "And whether they can get it set up quickly and manage the entire medical system."

It's a system that's been a long time coming for the Armenian medical service. They purchased the system in 2005 and equipment started arriving one year later. After lots of hard work, they were finally ready to take it into the field last month.

"It's exciting to see them finally get to this point," said Lt. Col. Tim Stevens of the Kansas Air National Guard, which participates in the National Guard's State Partnership Program with Armenia.

He was the original bilateral affairs officer who helped "get the ball rolling" nearly five years ago, and he made the journey all the way from Kansas to see the EMEDS in action.

"This type of asset can be quickly deployed, and you can see patients right away," Stevens said. "So for me I think it's very important for the Armenian people as well as the Armenian military to have this capability."

Kansas Air Guard officials have demonstrated the importance of EMEDS. They've deployed their system twice in real-world situations for hurricane Katrina and following the tornado that nearly destroyed the town of Greensburg, Kansas.

"So yes, we've seen firsthand what kind of impact these facilities can make," Colonel Stevens said.

That's an impact that will benefit not only Armenia, but also the United States. After all, the U.S. military also uses EMEDS, so the exercise helped improve interoperability between the two nations.

"If they understand how to use that and they've been practicing with it, the terminology is the same, the equipment is the same," said Maj. Dan Zablotsky of 3rd AF's International Health Division. "And they also understand how the flow of patients from point of injury to definitive care, or higher echelon care, is supposed to happen."

However, officials said that's only going to happen after lots of practice. As a result, for three days the Armenian doctors, nurses and medical technicians not only had to put up the EMEDS, but then they also started treating patients who were flown in on an Armenian helicopter.

Once off the medivac, the patients, who had a variety of injuries, were put in an ambulance and rushed to the EMEDS. There they were triaged with the most serious cases brought in first.

EMEDS gives Armenia the capability to provide a wide range of medical services, including surgery, in the field.