USAFE medics bring expertise to Liberia

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A team of eight medics from five U.S. Air Forces in Europe bases recently arrived in Liberia as part of a technical training initiative for the new Armed Forces of Liberia. The country, which was ravaged by nearly 15 years of civil war before it held its first democratic election in November 2005, is working with American forces to help swell the Liberian medical ranks.

The USAFE group, which includes four Ramstein-based participants, welcomed 23 medical technician students from the AFL Jan. 8. According to Lt. Col. Stephen Sales, 435th Air Base Wing director of staff and deployed team chief, the students were motivated, energized and eager to begin their education in medicine.

"Liberia only has about 70 physicians to care for its population of over three million," he said. "The expectation is for these new medics to become the first level of primary care for its soldiers and family members, as well as to accompany infantry in the field as combat medics.

The first week of class begin with a review of basic medical terminology, and proceeded with coverage of anatomy, patient movement and vital signs. At the end of the intensive course, students took a 76-question exam.

"The students grasped the material quickly and performed very well on both the exam and in hands-on application exercises," said Colonel Sales.

The work being done by the USAFE team is part of an effort by Liberia's president, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, to overhaul the security sector in the hopes of building an army loyal to the constitution rather than to a dictator. USAFE personnel arrived after AFL troops had already completed 21 weeks of basic and advanced individual training.

In addition to Colonel Sales, other Ramstein-based personnel included Senior Master Sgt. Daryl Webb, Master Sgt. Randall Ivory and Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Burrell, all of the 435th Medical Operations Squadron.

Colonel Sales also said the historical impact of the team's efforts in Liberia has not gone unnoticed.

"What a great mission with which to be involved," he said. "It's not every day one has the opportunity to help build a new army from scratch. Both students and instructors alike are filled with a sense of responsibility and privilege at the chance to be part of this reform initiative."

(Courtesy of the 435th Air Base Wing)