Africom expands, and funding for the future tightens leaving medical care in new, but old, territory. Africom‘s well-done site displays much of the work being done by U.S. Forces in Africa. For the most part, our mission is to help other nations find security so their people can live better lives. But, there are also real dangers in the African theatres and real challenges, too. The theatre as a whole is underdeveloped and doesn’t matter how resourced a unit is when they’re there – it’s closer to the wild west than most other locales for an extended trip. Africom’s leadership recently admitted our strategy in the theater is ineffective. Abroad, things can go awry, and an immature theatre is the future of warfare. Whether Syria, Africa or elsewhere – medics might have to practice extended care with limited supplies in austere conditions.
Extended care in harsh conditions is what we’re trained and equipped to do as Special Forces Medics. The Special Forces Medical Course is one of the more demanding courses in the military. It’s held at the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center because every SOF medical professional is held to the same stringent and challenging standard.
An unconventional warfare scenario, that all Special Forces train for, is a situation where supplies are limited and your lifeline is your guerrilla force. However, the SF Medic’s tactical set is intended to be a hospital on wheels. But, it could use a few things to accommodate for the state of the coming theatres. Even at this point – Iraq is not as robust a theatre as it was at the height of the war. Portable refrigerators or cooling devices, portable cardiac monitors that are powerful and ultra portable. A portable ultrasound for every team and glide scopes for intubation can be used via a smartphone.
Also, we need to focus on infrastructure. A friend of mine, during a mission to West Africa, had a terrible time finding medical cooperation and help via the American Embassy. Furthermore, there is not a logistical node system designed to facilitate Nightingale Flights (air ambulances) to the same measure as other mature theatres. Africa as a whole has been neglected. And it’s beginning to become a focus, but is currently far behind. It might be a temporary problem as spending has been increasing since 2013 – but the local hospitals in Africa are not going to improve in lockstep with American military funding.