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US Navy corpsmen, Ugandans work together to save lives

Story by Cpl. Olivia McDonald

CAMP SINGO, Uganda – U.S. Navy corpsmen and Uganda People’s Defense Force soldiers improved medical capabilities during their final weeks of training at Camp Singo, Uganda, Dec. 7-11, 2015.

All UPDF soldiers training with the Marines and sailors learned basic life-saving skills. The UPDF medics were trained in-depth and hands-on on how to conduct medical care under fire and treat common combat injuries.

“For those who have not had the chance to deploy, they will benefit from this course because we were lacking this training,” said Geoffry Okot, UPDF medic and instructor. “But now [this training has] opened our eyes and I feel very good about the impact of this course.”

With 18 years in the service in the medical field and multiple deployments to Mogadishu, Somalia, Geoffry Okot, a UPDF medic and instructor, knows the reality of combat and what it takes to save a life.

He hopes the partner nations continue focusing on this type of training as the UPDF continues their commitment to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Marines and sailors with the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa have been primarily working to build on UPDF’s logistical and engineering capabilities since October and will complete training in the coming weeks.

According to the corpsmen, the UPDF had medical equipment, such as tourniquets or needle decompression kits, but did not know how to use them.

“They were given [medical] equipment but weren’t taught how to use it,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Otte, corpsman and chief medical instructor with SPMAGTF-CR-AF in Camp Singo. “I think these skills could impact them positively just by giving them the knowledge and the confidence to go out there and just do what they need to do to save a life.”

During the training, the medics were able to practice using the equipment and become proficient. The corpsmen tested them through notional, chaotic combat environments.

“We lost soldiers to massive bleeding and tension pneumothorax,” said Okot. “These life-threatening injuries are taking most of our soldiers.”

These are just some of the common injuries the Ugandan medics learned to treat while training with the U.S. corpsmen.

The soldiers employed their newfound medical skills in notional combat situations to build their confidence, during the final exercise, or FINEX, which contains multiple scenarios that tests all the knowledge they have learned the past two months.

“The US has been at war for a long time and we have put a lot of research, time and development into our tactics. We have the documentation to prove that our casualty rates have gone down,” said Otte. “I think it’s important that we come down here to teach and share our experiences. We have a set doctrine of TCCC that works, if we can get everyone on the same page, I really think we can help.”

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