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NATO-IHS collaboration proves valuable for building partner capability and interoperability

  • Published
  • By Kelley Schlitt
  • U.S. Air Force International Health Specialists
The U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa International Health Specialist team has partnered with the NATO Center of Excellence for Military Medicine to improve interoperability with partner nations and increase force readiness.

Since 2017, the two organizations have collaboratively produced a First Responder Train-the-Trainer program designed to navigate language barriers between trainers and trainees. The FRTT course provides medical personnel with the skills needed to train others at varying levels to administer emergency medical care as first responders.

“Even with interpreters on hand, language barriers can still prove to be challenging,” said Maj. Jason Mommaerts, International Health Specialist. “This partnership and the FRTT program is not only effective, but also sustainable and replicable to ensure interoperability between partner nations.”

In March of 2017, the NATO Center of Excellence received a request from Romania for an FRTT course. Due to their lack of trained personnel with the appropriate background to develop such a course, the USAFE IHS team stepped in to help. Over the following six months, Mommaerts worked collaboratively with the NATO Center of Excellence to design the course and develop curriculum.

“On day one, I taught the Romanian military medical personnel the training methodology in English,” said Mommaerts. “By doing this, days two through five [of the course] could operate in Romanian, the participants’ native language.”

The NATO-delivered and funded course provided certification to 25 Romanians, and the course received NATO accreditation.

The impact of this FRTT course continued beyond its initial delivery. Mommaerts compiled lesson plans, test questions, and training scenarios that the Romanians developed during the course. He also drafted a standard operating procedure outlining how to run the course, select students, schedule classes, develop coursework, and conduct remedial training. He provided the participants with this database of reference material so they could implement the train-the-trainer program at their own training facilities.

Since the first course, Romania has reported using the FRTT course blueprint to certify 35-60 military medical personnel annually. Not only did Mommaerts teach a train-the-trainer course, but he also established a sustainable train-the-trainer program.

Portugal has also expressed interest in replicating the FRTT conducted in Romania. This time, Mommaerts plans to take one of the Romanians he trained with him so he can learn how to establish the FRTT program in other countries.

“The FRTT program will not be dependent on one person and will continue even after my special duty IHS assignment ends,” Mommaerts said.

This type of cooperation provides ample opportunity for the USAFE IHS team to become familiar with partner nations and create tailored roadmaps designed to help close capability gaps. The IHS team plans to assist NATO in developing standardized roadmaps modeled after its own that NATO can provide to its member countries. Relationships such as these provide long lasting value to the U.S. military and enable it to maximize force readiness, regardless of shifting theater dynamics.

“Interoperability is a constant priority of IHS personnel as it enables U.S. forces to be fully capable with the fewest resources,” stated USAFE-AFAFRICA IHS Team Lead, Lt. Col. Andrew Allen. “In other words, through military medical cooperation with partner nations, the U.S. military can do more with less and simultaneously maintain medical force readiness.”

Through collaborative projects such as the FRTT program, the USAFE IHS team is developing ways for NATO forces, including U.S. forces, to become more interoperable in the medical sphere.