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Minnesotans in Botswana build trust during MEDLITE 12

THEBEPHATSWA AIR BASE, Botswana -- Members of the Botswana Defense Force attend an introduction to aeromedical evacuation class as part of MEDLITE 12, Aug. 6, 2012. MEDLITE is an annual exercise bringing together U.S. forces personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout Africa. The goal of the exercise is to enhance capabilities and work together by introducing the U.S. Aeromedical Evacuation system of patient movement to the BDF military personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lausanne Morgan)

THEBEPHATSWA AIR BASE, Botswana -- Members of the Botswana Defense Force attend an introduction to aeromedical evacuation class as part of MEDLITE 12, Aug. 6, 2012. MEDLITE is an annual exercise bringing together U.S. forces personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout Africa. The goal of the exercise is to enhance capabilities and work together by introducing the U.S. Aeromedical Evacuation system of patient movement to the BDF military personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lausanne Morgan)

Members of the Botswana Defense Force receive hands-on flight safety training from Airmen assigned to the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from the North Carolina Air National Guard, as part of MEDLITE 12, at Thebephatswa Air Base, Botswana, Aug. 11, 2012. MEDLITE is an annual exercise bringing together U.S. forces personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout Africa. The goal of the exercise is to enhance capabilities and work together by introducing the U.S. Aeromedical Evacuation system of patient movement to the BDF military personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lausanne Morgan)

Members of the Botswana Defense Force receive hands-on flight safety training from Airmen assigned to the 156th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron from the North Carolina Air National Guard, as part of MEDLITE 12, at Thebephatswa Air Base, Botswana, Aug. 11, 2012. MEDLITE is an annual exercise bringing together U.S. forces personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout Africa. The goal of the exercise is to enhance capabilities and work together by introducing the U.S. Aeromedical Evacuation system of patient movement to the BDF military personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lausanne Morgan)

Members of the Botswana Defense Force prepare to load litters on a BDF C-130 Hercules as part of a practical exercise during MEDLITE 12 at Thebephatswa Air Base, Botswana, Aug. 11, 2012. MEDLITE is an annual exercise bringing together U.S. forces personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout Africa. The goal of the exercise is to enhance capabilities and work together by introducing the U.S. Aeromedical Evacuation system of patient movement to the BDF military personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lausanne Morgan)

Members of the Botswana Defense Force prepare to load litters on a BDF C-130 Hercules as part of a practical exercise during MEDLITE 12 at Thebephatswa Air Base, Botswana, Aug. 11, 2012. MEDLITE is an annual exercise bringing together U.S. forces personnel with counterparts from militaries throughout Africa. The goal of the exercise is to enhance capabilities and work together by introducing the U.S. Aeromedical Evacuation system of patient movement to the BDF military personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Lausanne Morgan)

THEBEPHATSWA AIR BASE, Botswana -- MEDLITE 12, a joint exercise between U.S. and Botswana, concluded here with a ceremony Aug. 16.

The main goal of MEDLITE 12 was to enhance U.S. and Botswana capabilities to work together by introducing the U.S. aeromedical evacuation system of patient movement to the Botswana Defense Force (BDF) military medical personnel.

About 1,000 U.S. and BDF gathered near the base parade field for the closing ceremony, and what started as a solid partnership grew into a close friendship over the course of the three-week exercise.

Medical and dental personal also played an important role in the overall exercise, and the MEDLITE leadership thinks the exercise was a win for all those involved.

"Medicine has a diplomatic value that sometimes you just don't see," said U.S. Air National Guard Lt. Col. Matt Peterson, 109th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron out of Minnesota and deputy commander of the MEDLITE exercise. "Medical diplomacy isn't taken out of context by a lot of other countries with the media - they look at it and look at what we are doing for their populace and look at what we are doing for their defense force and understand we are here to help.

"The expectation of what we brought to the table with (aeromedical evacuation) was only ... a small part of what we were doing here," he added.

As part of the MEDLITE 12 exercise, members of the North Carolina Air National Guard worked hand-in-hand with their BDF counterparts providing them in-depth, hands-on training to about 30 medical personnel. The exercise consisted of classroom instruction, several aeromedical evacuation training scenarios and wrapped up with a mass casualty exercise testing the BDF's new capabilities.

With nearly 5,000 individuals evacuated under his belt, Peterson said he has no doubt that the BDF will succeed in bringing this capability to Botswana.

"In the course of the training I think the BDF have done a great job," Peterson said. "I'd feel fully comfortable if they had to (evacuate) me out."

He said he has an admiration and astonishment for the BDF's ability and willingness to learn, and feels with the right equipment they will be ready to get off the ground.

"I think overall the BDF really valued what we were doing here," Peterson said. "It speaks really well for the Guard and for the Air Force as a whole."
"The Botswana Defense Force and United States military maintain a very strong and professional relationship, which is exemplified by the hard work and the significant accomplishments displayed over the past several weeks here during Exercise Sothern Accord, Medical Accord and MEDLITE 2012," said Gen. Carter F. Ham, U.S. Africa Command commander.

This wasn't the first exercise conducted here in Africa but it was the first of its kind to be held in Botswana, the general said.

During the exercise many U.S. units took the opportunity to train side by side with their BDF counterparts and provide needed assistance to the people of several local villages surround the air base, Ham said. They helped build roads and ponds, and took the opportunity to provide some much need care to several local villages.

"My understanding is the most important thing (the U.S. and BDF) built were not only roads and ponds, but they built trust," Ham said.

The general added that In the course of the last three weeks the U.S. and BDF worked closely together to ensure the success of this exercise.