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Fort Sheridan troops teach rapid trauma response in Africa

Spc. Nicholas DeleChicago combmedic with 909th Forward Surgical Team out Fort Sheridan Ill. demonstrates proper use combat-applied tourniquet during medical

Spc. Nicholas Deleon of Chicago, a combat medic with the 909th Forward Surgical Team out of Fort Sheridan, Ill., demonstrates the proper use of a combat-applied tourniquet during medical training conducted at Thebephatshwa Air Base, Botswana, during Southern Accord 2012. Botswana Defense Forces are training with U.S. forces during the two-week exercise dedicated to enhancing security in Africa through collaborative partnerships. | Special to Sun-Times media

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Updated: October 8, 2012 1:56AM

Soldiers from the 909th Forward Surgical Team out of Fort Sheridan provided medical training to soldiers of the Botswana Defense Force Aug. 2 in The Republic of Botswana.

The training is part of Southern Accord 2012, which is an U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, U.S. Army Africa-led combined, joint exercise that brings together Army personnel with counterparts from the Botswana Defense Force to conduct humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations, peacekeeping operations, aeromedical evacuation, and enhance military capabilities and interoperability.

The 909th FST is just one of the many units supporting the mission. Army Maj. John Provenzano of Chicago, a certified registered nurse anesthetist with the 909th, conducted the class which covered the role of an FST in the military as well as its capabilities.

“We are the first surgical resuscitation level that any soldier will see,” said Provenzano. “The idea is that patients get to us within that first ‘golden hour’ of trauma, where we can do the most resuscitation to save their life.”

Forward surgical teams are mobile units constructed in a way which allows them to move and follow the combat unit they support. Once on the ground, an FST can set up to perform surgery in 20 minutes and can sustain operations with no logistical support for 72 hours. These teams do not provide complete surgical care, but they provide the care necessary to stabilize a patient for transport to a hospital for complete definitive care.

Provenzano also emphasized the importance of using tourniquets on the battlefield.

“If I could put my money on one thing that has saved soldiers’ lives ... it’s the tourniquet,” he said. “If you could take away one thing that you can teach your soldiers, that’s the use of a tourniquet.”

Cpl. Itumeleng Matsoga, a corpsman with the Botswana Defense Force since 2004, enjoyed the classes. Matsoga said he was most looking forward to learning more about the medical services throughout the SA12 exercise. He plans to take back the information he learned to his soldiers.

“The best part of the training was about the tourniquets and buddy care,” Matsoga said. “Every soldier has to take care of their buddies.”

The medical training is part of a week-long series of classes conducted by the BDF and U.S. forces, aimed at enhancing the collaboration between the two nations and demonstrating the strong partnership between their militaries.

Three Illinois National Guard units, among the more than 1,200 military personnel from the United States who are participating in Southern Accord 2012, gathered for a cultural day Aug. 5 at Thebephatshwa Air Base, The Republic of Botswana, Africa.

Southern Accord 12 is a joint exercise bringing together U.S. Army personnel with counterparts from the Botswana Defense Force to conduct humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations, peacekeeping operations, aeromedical evacuation and enhance military capabilities and interoperability.

The 405th Brigade Support Battalion in North Riverside and Streator, the 766th Engineer Battalion in Decatur and the 139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment in Springfield are supporting Southern Accord 2012 Aug. 1 to 17.

During cultural day, soldiers experienced a dance performance from local Botswana Defense Forces (BDF) personnel in ethnic attire as well as local music and food.

Approximately 35 vendors from across Africa also set up booths to sell collectibles, souvenirs and clothing.

Sgt. Whitney Clever of Island Lake, Ill., with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 405th Brigade Support Battalion in North Riverside said she loved cultural day for the interaction with the BDF and local civilians. She said she learned a lot about Botswana culture from the items she found at the bazaar.

“During an exercise like this, it’s amazing to see so many different counterparts come together,” said Clever. “Not only by country, but also the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy coming together with the BDF and their local community for a shared experience. It was really a great exercise.”

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