Collaboration at Indo-Pacific military health exchange enhances interoperability

  • Published
  • By Col. Elizabeth Erickson and Chloe Arevalo
  • U.S. Air Force International Health Specialists

More than 500 health professionals from 24 nations, including the U.S., converged at the Indo-Pacific Military Health Exchange, September 26 to September 29, to share experiences and increase interoperability among military health teams.

The Indo-Pacific Military Health Exchange, or IPMHE, is a multilateral military event focused on partnership and interoperability and co-hosted by the armed forces of a country in the Indo-Pacific region together with the United States Indo-Pacific Command, or USINDOPACOM, Command Surgeon. The co-host for this IPMHE was the Malaysian Armed Forces Health Services.

Participants, from non-commissioned officers to senior leaders, came together for a four-day exchange, including symposium and poster presentations, hands-on clinical training workshops, bilateral meetings, and a visit to the Malaysian field hospital, focusing on this year’s theme, ‘Achieving Health Solutions Through Diversity and Inclusivity’.

Several senior leaders from around the world attended the exchange, including Lt. Gen. Robert I. Miller, Surgeon General, Department of the U.S. Air Force; and Chief Master Sergeant Dawn M. Kolczynski, Chief, Medical Enlisted Force.

“The IPMHE highlighted successful military health partnerships in the region and was a call to action to accelerate our efforts to enhance interoperability as we face future contingencies,” said Lt. Gen. Miller. “Our collective readiness is critical for sustaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

During the exchange, U.S. Air Force personnel shared presentations on clinical and operational medicine, global health security, and partnerships that enhance readiness of U.S. and partner nations.

“We can improve care by establishing communication and agreements before they are necessary,” said Capt. Audrey “Frankie” Belmonte, Critical Care Air Transport Nurse from the Washington Air National Guard, during her presentation entitled ‘Early Inclusion and Collaboration Among Partners to Enhance Enroute Patient Care’.

Airmen also participated in hands-on clinical training workshops to strengthen interoperability with partner nation counterparts. The workshops focused on tactical combat casualty care, surgery and critical care management.

“Our Airmen, representing the total force and including enlisted and officer health professionals, demonstrated the strength and readiness we achieve in the Air Force Medical Service by embracing diversity and inclusivity,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kolczynski.

One component of the IPMHE was bilateral meetings between senior leaders from the U.S. and partner nations, allowing for discussion of priorities for cooperation, such as aerospace medicine and patient movement.

“The IPMHE creates an opportunity for relationship building for our senior leaders around the world. The bilateral meetings enable the U.S. to meet with partner nations one-on-one to talk about opportunities to collaborate further,” said Lt. Col. Richard Caballero, USINDOPACOM co-chair for the IPMHE.

The exchange also included an observation of the Malaysian Armed Forces field hospital. Over many years of cooperation, Malaysia has routinely exercised their field hospital along with the U.S. and other regional partners. In recent years, Malaysia has deployed the field hospital to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Bangladesh and Türkiye.

Concurrent with the IPMHE, the Washington National Guard and Malaysian Armed Forces Health Service conducted a mass casualty exercise utilizing the field hospital. Washington and Malaysia have been partnered since 2017 as part of the National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.

“The state partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region are on display here at IPMHE,” said Col. Charla Geist, Global Health Engagement Liaison to the National Guard Bureau Joint Surgeon’s Office. “The enduring relationships, such as Oregon with both Vietnam and Bangladesh, and Washington with both Malaysia and Thailand, have enhanced readiness of all partners.”

Lt. Col. Chris Webb from the Oregon Air National Guard presented on an ongoing initiative to support Vietnam’s development of a chapter of the International Trauma Life Support program, which provides training on pre-hospital care to Vietnamese military personnel prior to deployment on United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.

The relationships bolstered during IPMHE are invaluable. The exchange opens cooperation opportunities for partners who may not have worked together before. Relationship building is one of the most important impacts of this exchange.

“It is easier to reach out to our partners in contingencies when we already have established relationships,” said Caballero.

The IPMHE is one component of a broad portfolio of global health engagement between the U.S. and Ally and partner nation counterparts in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our partnerships are deep and enduring,” said Col. Susan Moran, Pacific Air Forces Command Surgeon. “IPMHE fostered continuous improvement in military medicine as we shared knowledge, lessons learned and best practices. With the diversity of attendees, this conference allowed us to think strategically and tackle complex issues. IPMHE, along with our regular exercises, make us stronger together.”