NEWS | July 27, 2015

Armenian troops visit PATRIOT exercise under State Partnership Program

By 2nd Lt. Benjamin Hughes 175th Wing, Maryland National Guard

VOLK FIELD, Wis. - Four medical officers from the Armenian Ministry of Defense observed medical units working in field conditions during PATRIOT 2015, an annual domestic operations disaster-response training exercise conducted by the National Guard Bureau, here July 20-23.

The Armenians were most interested in seeing the setup and utilization of the Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS) tents, as well as how fast they could be packed up. The interconnected tents serve as a field hospital that includes a spaces for surgery, X-Rays, a pharmacy and more.

"We also have the EMEDS facility in our armed forces," said Maj. Gegham Pashikyan, senior officer of the Planning Branch, Military Medical Department, through a translator, Gevorg Hayrapetyan. "The purpose (for the trip) is mostly for the exchange of ideas and to see innovations regarding the EMEDS deployment."

The visit during the exercise was coordinated through the Kansas National Guard and the National Guard's State Partnership Program, which is designed to enhance U.S. relations with other countries.

"The cooperation with the U.S. and Kansas is very important and we want to further that cooperation," said Pashikyan, who specializes in epidemiology. "The more support we get, the better that it is and we'd like to continue to share best practices."

The need to have a quick medical response after an emergency is important to the Armenians, said U. S. Air Force Maj. Donald W. Harper, who is the Kansas Bilateral Affairs Officer State Partnership Program. In 1988, a disastrous earthquake hit the Republic of Armenia killing more than 25,000 and left about 500,00 people homeless.

Emergency support operations fall under the Armenia Ministry of Defense. It is similar to how the National Guard responds in a stateside disaster and they want to improve their operations in a large-scale emergency, said Pashikyan.

"We have differences in our processes and how we do our jobs and it benefits them by getting them to see new things," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Bradley Rees, 190th Medical Group, Kansas National Guard, who was escorting the Armenian officers. "Getting those ideas helps them think outside the box of what they are traditionally doing."

The Armenians are specialists in their own medical fields and they took time to watch and ask questions to medical staff working in the areas of radiology, epidemiology and infectious control. The Kansas National Guard has been partnered with Armenia since 2003 and it has improved their partnership capacity, said Harper.

"The State Partnership Program helps show the National Guard's capabilities to the larger world," Harper said