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Washington Guard joins exercise with partners in Malaysia

  • Published
  • By Joseph Siemandel,
  • Joint Force Headquarters - Washington National Guard

Nine Washington National Guard members from the 194th Wing and Medical Command participated in the Indo-Pacific Military Health Exchange in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sept. 26-29.

“The overall goal of the Washington National Guard supporting IPMHE is to strengthen our medical cooperation and collaboration with the Malaysian Armed Forces Health Services through the State Partnership Program,” said Lt. Col. Khadidja Harrell, a flight surgeon with the 194th Medical Group. “Our medical engagements are focused on global health interoperability and institutional capacity building with the goal of increasing health security among allied and partner nations.”

The IPMHE is a multilateral military event focused on global health interoperability and co-hosted by the armed forces of a country in the Indo-Pacific region and the United States Indo-Pacific command. Nearly 600 representatives from 25 countries attended this year. 

Participants shared lessons learned in military medicine, including tropical medicine, combat and operational medical care, field anesthesia, field surgery, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and marine and aviation medicine emergencies.

Before the event, the Guard members participated as observers in Starlight 2023, a three-day medical exercise designed to test the Malaysian Armed Forces Health Services’ ability to respond to mass casualty events. Starlight 2023 was the largest multilateral exercise Malaysia has held since 1985.

“It was the first time that many of the Malaysian service members had the opportunity to participate in such a large-scale exercise with a field hospital and forward surgical team assets,” said Harrell, who has a civilian career as a craniofacial pediatrician at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “They were very thankful for the expertise and best practices shared from the Washington National Guard, and we are grateful for the experience, knowledge and insights that we learned from our counterparts.”

Harrell joined the Washington Air National Guard in 2019 after serving 11 years as an international health specialist on active duty. She continued global health engagements through the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program with Malaysia and Thailand.

The Washington National Guard has partnered with Thailand since 2002 and with Malaysia since 2017.

“When I found out that IPMHE was going to be in Malaysia this year, I offered to be on the planning committee. The Indo-Pacific Command Surgeon’s Office was excited to have the SPP be part of the planning committee for the first time ever,” said Harrell.

“Greater collaboration leads to greater collective action,” said Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “The Starlight exercise demonstration at the hospital, the first of its kind at an IPMHE event, was a great example of this sentiment. I truly hope the SPP continues to flourish and generate more opportunities for collaboration.”