Medical symposium focuses on interoperability of multinational forces
By Staff Sgt. Jason Fudge
| U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific | June 13, 2013
BERAKAS, Brunei Darussalam --
More than 300 medical personnel from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus eight other dialogue countries came together for a military medicine symposium during force integration training June 12 in Berakas, Brunei, as part of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting-Plus ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise.
The focus of the symposium is to familiarize the different nationalities of standard medical procedures and best practices in disaster relief operations.
U.S. Pacific Command forces participated in the training, which was co-sponsored by Singapore and Japan.
“There have been tremendous planning efforts going into this exercise,” said U.S. Army Col. Steven Toft, the senior U.S. medical representative and deputy command surgeon for USPACOM.
According to Toft, the exercise took more than three years to plan and is the first of its kind, integrating multilateral training and engagements with the ASEAN-Plus countries.
The need for the training came about due largely in part to the frequency of natural disasters that occur in the region. Analysts say the Asia-Pacific is the world’s disaster hotspot, with someone in the region 25 times more likely to be affected by a natural disaster than someone in Europe or North America, according to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
“In most disasters, most countries will actually deploy on their own and work on their own,” said Royal Brunei Armed Forces Lt. Col. Dr. Mohd Hafizul Hassan, who is the chief medical officer for RBAF. “What we are trying to do at the moment is to try to get countries to work together to provide services to the needed nation who are facing the disaster.”
The hope is that with the different nations working together, they can provide more sustainable provisions to the countries in need after a disaster, added Hafizul. However, the interoperability between the 18 militaries may be a challenge because some of militaries attending the exercise have never worked with each other.
“The exercise itself will actually get countries to work together,” Hafizul elaborated. “And hopefully it will lessen tensions and mistrust amongst the countries.”
For Hafizul and many of the other medical professionals, this exercise provides a great opportunity to break down cultural barriers, build relationships while improving cooperation and interoperability between the multinational forces.
After the force integration training concludes, the ASEAN-Plus countries will take part in the HA/DR and military medicine exercise portion scheduled from June 16 to 20.