African Partnership Flight, training for aeromedical evacuation

Airmen from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Benin discuss options for aeromedical support during African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 17, 2017.

Airmen from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Benin discuss options for aeromedical support during African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 17, 2017. APFs have been conducted since March 2012, when the first team traveled to Ghana. Since it’s inception, more than 550 African military personnel from 23 African nations have participated. APF has been held in Ghana, Angola, Senegal, Mauritania, Djibouti, Kenya, and Burkina Faso as well as at Ramstein Air Base, Germany and Joint Base McGuire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman)

Air force members from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Benin plan aeromedical support during a training scenario for African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 17, 2017.

Air force members from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Benin plan aeromedical support during a training scenario for African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 17, 2017. APFs have been conducted since March 2012, when the first team traveled to Ghana. Since it’s inception, more than 550 African military personnel from 23 African nations have participated. APF has been held in Ghana, Angola, Senegal, Mauritania, Djibouti, Kenya, and Burkina Faso as well as at Ramstein Air Base, Germany and Joint Base McGuire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman)

A team of air force members from Nigeria and Chad discuss aeromedical evacuation through a translator during African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 17, 2017.

A team of air force members from Nigeria and Chad discuss aeromedical evacuation through a translator during African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 17, 2017. The training included theater planning, airlift planning, aeromedical evacuation planning, medical planning and patient movement validation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman

Participants from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Benin take notes during the lecture portion of African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 15, 2017.

Participants from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Benin take notes during the lecture portion of African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 15, 2017. APF Nigeria, a week-long multilateral military-to-military engagement, was held Aug. 14-18 with approximately 60 African partner nation airmen and 40 U.S. Air Force members in attendance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kimberly Polston, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Force Africa Surgeon General internation health specialist team lead, addresses the simulated Multinational Joint Task Force during African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Aug. 16, 2017.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kimberly Polston, U.S. Air Forces Europe-Air Force Africa Surgeon General internation health specialist team lead, addresses the simulated Multinational Joint Task Force during African Partnership Flight Nigeria, Aug. 16, 2017. The MNJTF is responsible for coordinating assistance efforts between partner nations, headquartered in N’Djamena, Chad, is comprised of five African countries — Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Benin.

A participant asks Maj. Allison Bain, U.S. Air Forces Europe - Air Forces Africa Surgeon General medical plans and operations chief, about medical planning during her brief, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 15, 2017.

A participant asks Maj. Allison Bain, U.S. Air Forces Europe - Air Forces Africa Surgeon General medical plans and operations chief, about medical planning during her brief, Lagos, Nigeria, Aug. 15, 2017. The theme of the August APF was airlift and aeromedical planning in response to a low intensity conflict or natural disaster. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Coleman

LAGOS, Nigeria -- An earthquake has caused an international emergency directly affecting three countries. Medical assistance is needed, but how do neighboring countries assist?

Victims range from critical condition to minor injuries. Some countries have strong, deployable medical capabilities, while others have aircraft capable of moving the people and materials required. But the question remains, how do these countries request or offer help?

That was the scenario for African Partnership Flight Nigeria, a week-long multilateral military-to-military engagement Aug. 14-18 with approximately 60 airmen from African partner nations and 40 U.S. Air Force airmen in attendance.

“In my Air Force we like to think of the air force as a service of innovation,” said Brig. Gen. Dieter E. Bareihs, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa director of plans, programs and analyses. “If you look back at the history of airpower around the world surely that’s the case. We strive to always improve and to be better at what we do, whether that is looking at old ways to do new things, or new ways to do old things, or new ways to do new things. [We are] always striving to improve and that is exactly what this African Partnership Flight event is all about.”

USAF personnel co-hosted the event with the Nigerian air force and partner nations Niger, Chad, and Benin sent teams to attend at the Ikeja Heavy Airlift Wing, Lagos, Nigeria. The theme was airlift and aeromedical planning in response to a low intensity conflict or natural disaster — something with which each of the partner nations could relate.

The training examined the relationship among the partner nations and how they could help in the event of a disaster or crisis, each nation assessing what assets they could offer, and what assets they could request from neighboring forces.

The training included theater planning, airlift planning, aeromedical evacuation planning, medical planning and patient movement validation. In addition, it highlighted the Multinational Joint Task Force, an asset many were initially unsure of but quickly recognized its value. The MNJTF, headquartered in N’Djamena, Chad, is comprised of five African countries — Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, and Benin. Its purpose is to assist in coordinating efforts between the specified nations.

Maj. Andrew Moisan, USAFE-AFAFRICA APF Nigeria lead planner called to duty from the Air Force Reserves, worked over the course of four months to coordinate the event with the U.S. Consulate in Lagos and the Nigerian Air Force.

“We asked that they volunteer six personnel from each country — a blend of medical professionals, pilots and logistics planners, and that’s the exact demographic we got back,” said Moisan. “It was very useful so that when we had the tabletop exercise we could break the countries into different groups and split the subject matter experts into different groups and really create a complete team.”

Mixing personnel from different countries to create diverse groups encouraged the partner nations’ air force members to communicate and interact on a more casual level.

“In the Lake Chad Basin, the possibility of a humanitarian disaster and the subsequent need for aeromedical evacuation is a very real possibility,” said Moisan. “What kind of capability could these countries use cooperatively and pool their resources so they could overcome the fact that one country might have the aviation resources, but the other has the doctors and have them jointly support an aeromedical evacuation.”

Lt. Col. Kimberly Polston has been working in the African area of responsibility for almost two years and developed the training scenario. She identified the need for training and worked to create a scenario that would integrate airlift and medical personnel.

“One key thing we did with this event is to get the medical personnel and the pilots talking,” said Polston. “So that the pilots understand medical capabilities and how patient movement is supposed to work based on the level of care at each facility and the aircraft they would probably put in certain areas to assist with patient movement.”

Another key factor was having participants look mathematically at their capabilities to care for patients. Making detailed plans could be the difference in the number of lives that could be saved.

“We had both pilots and medics looking at aircraft to see how many patients could be moved — litter patients, ambulatory patients,” said Polston. “We also had them think about where they would put their aeromedical teams. You know when they fly them out of theater they have to figure out how to get them back.”

At the end of the week each group presented their capstone project — showing what resources they could provide, what resources they needed and how they would prepare to assist in the crisis.

Exercises in Nigeria, and within the continent of Africa, effectively advance U.S. national security interests through focused, sustained engagement with partners in support of shared security objectives.

APFs have been conducted since March 2012, when the first team traveled to Ghana. Since its inception, more than 550 African military personnel from 23 African nations have participated. APFs have been held in Ghana, Angola, Senegal, Mauritania, Djibouti, Kenya, and Burkina Faso as well as at Ramstein Air Base, Germany and Joint Base McGuire.


(Editor’s note: According to Moisan, Cameroon was invited but unable to participate but is looking forward to participating in future iterations of APF.)