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AFMS International Health Specialists Train to Further Health Security Goals

  • Published
  • By Marisa Cole
In August 2016, 22 of the newest Air Force Medical Service International Health Specialists gathered at McGuire Air Force Base, NJ, for the 2016 IHS Orientation course.

“I felt the course was very good and covered many topics that I will be building into our three to five year planning processes,” said Maj. Tyler Grunewald, an International Health Specialist from the Office of the Command Surgeon at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. “The opportunity to gain a better understanding of all of the different resources available to each of our IHS Offices at the Major Command and Combatant Command levels was extremely important. Each of these force multipliers will allow for ease of management when building partnership capacity within my Area of Responsibility.”

As the sole medical advisors on IHS missions and subject matter expert exchanges, IHS team members require specialized training covering a wide variety of topics. Through the two week orientation course, they are prepared for these engagements with cultural studies from all the different regions of the world, security cooperation training, leadership engagement practices, basics of advising, and media relations, to name just a few.

“The strong emphasis on cross-cultural understanding was eye opening to many in the class and absolutely essential to the success of these types of operations anywhere,” said Capt. Samuel Sells, an International Health Specialist currently operating as the Chief of Irregular Warfare Med Plans for the Air Force Special Operations Air Warfare Center. 

Attendees also participate in language exercises in which they work with language students who do not speak English, working through an interpreter to obtain necessary information.

Through the course, IHS team members gain a fundamental understanding of advising and cross-cultural communications to support building partner nation capabilities when on mission.

 “The highlight of the course was the ability of these new IHS team members to connect and network with each other,” said the IHS program manager, Master Sgt. Catalina Caldwell. “It was useful for them to find out what their colleagues in different regions of the world were doing to see if those practices could apply in their own region – is what they are doing in USAFE (United States Air Forces in Europe) something that could be done in AFSOAWC?”

This networking is just the beginning of the relationship building these new IHS team members will do in their career. Making connections with fellow service members and partner nations is key to the operations of the IHS program – creating lasting relationships to further the health security goals of our nation across borders.

***The IHS Program was established in 2000, foreseeing the need for Air Force medics to be on the cutting edge of global health issues in order to keep pace with evolving military strategy. Full-time IHS staff support global health engagement at Combatant Commands, Major Commands, and Air Force Component Commands. These IHS professionals enable another 300 Special Experience Identifier (SEI) Airmen at military treatment facilities around the globe, applying demonstrated language skills and cultural experience to respond to global health engagement assignments and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. Since the inception of the program, more than 400 Airmen have been trained and participated in hundreds of IHS missions that positively impact partner nations’ civilian and military personnel.

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