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Total force brings aeromedical evacuation training to the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Staff Sgt. Amber Weaver, an Aeromedical Evacuation Technician with the Wyoming Air National Guard's 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (foreground) conducts an inventory on inflight medical kits while Tech. Sgt. Matt Larson, a Medical Material Craftsman with the Minnesota ANG's 109th AES reads off the inventory checklist as part of MEDLITE 11 preparation, April 26, 2011 at the U.S. Embassay here. MEDLITE 11 is a joint medical exercise focused on aeromedical evacuation, to improve the readiness of U.S. Air Force and DRC personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Orrell)

Staff Sgt. Amber Weaver, an Aeromedical Evacuation Technician with the Wyoming Air National Guard's 187th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (foreground) conducts an inventory on inflight medical kits while Tech. Sgt. Matt Larson, a Medical Material Craftsman with the Minnesota ANG's 109th AES reads off the inventory checklist as part of MEDLITE 11 preparation, April 26, 2011 at the U.S. Embassay here. MEDLITE 11 is a joint medical exercise focused on aeromedical evacuation, to improve the readiness of U.S. Air Force and DRC personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Orrell)

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo -- A two week medical exercise, in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and U.S. Air Forces Africa, focusing on aeromedical evacuation, kicked off here at the Centre Superior Militaire Academy Monday.

MEDLITE 11 is an exercise that will improve the readiness of both countries' medical personnel and will consist of classroom instruction, an aeromedical evacuation training scenario and is scheduled to conclude with a mass casualty exercise, May 4th.

"Our months of planning are now culminating in this mission and exercise as we build on lessons learned from MEDFLAG 2010," said Air Force Lt. Col. June Oldman, mission director for MEDLITE 11 and a member of the 137th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Oklahoma Air National Guard.

"We look forward to the opportunity to learn from each other," Oldman said. "The more we work together with our partners in Africa, the better we understand each other."

The purpose of this joint exercise is to focus on five key points, said Oldman. Reinforcing the training of the Armed Forces of the DRC Medical Immediate Response Unit, enhancing the capabilities of the U.S. and Armed Forces of the DRC to respond to medical emergencies, sharing our training and experiences with the Medical Rapid Intervention Unit, building a partnership and relationship with the Congolese military and cultivating a professional Armed Forces of the DRC as part of the U.S. government's efforts to support peace and stability in the DRC.

"What an in depth broad relationship we have here with the DRC," said Ambassador James Entwistle, U.S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Not only did we have the DRC and the U.S. forces here today at the opening ceremonies but we were able to get representatives from Rwanda to attend as well.

"We are hoping to increase the capabilities between the Congolese military and the U.S. military and to eventually learn more than we teach," Entwistle said.

About 60 U.S. Air Force active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and 150 Congolese military personnel will participate in MEDLITE 11 from April 25 through May 5.

"I came here to teach aeromedical evacuation to the Congolese," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Julie Swearingin, an aeromedical evacuation technician with the 187th AES, Wyoming Air National Guard.

"My hopes are the things I teach them will one day help save lives and provide them a more increased chance of survivability for their military members," Swearingin said.

"A great opportunity presented itself to me with this exercise," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Amber Weaver, an aeromedical evacuation technician, also assigned to the 187th AES.

"I'm hoping to help the Congolese military medical personnel with helping their own wounded, while at the same time learning a great deal from them," Weaver said.

The start of MEDLITE 11 signifies the latest in a series of exercises that were initiated in 1987 as a now U.S. Africa Command-sponsored, bilateral medical exercise to facilitate an exchange of medical information and techniques with militaries in Africa.

"This mission is truly a total force effort," Oldman said.

"It is a key element in a series of military to military activities that demonstrate the strong partnership and cooperation between the U.S. and Congolese militaries."