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NEWS | July 2, 2024

Colorado National Guard joint response team first to exercise capability with NATO partners

By Airman 1st Class Eliana Raspet, 140th Wing Public Affairs

BALATONFÜRED, Hungary -- The Colorado National Guard, in support of United States European Command, showcased military medical readiness at the NATO Vigorous Warrior 2024 and Clean Care 2024 exercises at the Bakonykút training area in Hungary, May 4-8, 2024.

This marked the first time that these two exercises occurred simultaneously.

Vigorous Warrior, led by Hungarian Col. Laszlo Fazekas, director of the NATO Centre of Excellence for Military Medicine, is regarded as the largest military medical exercise with 38 NATO and partner nations confirming participation. Clean Care, led by U.S. Army Lt. Col. Mark T. Williams, Clean Care exercise director, U.S. Army Office of the Surgeon General, focused on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear responses.

“Our objectives here are to integrate with other NATO and partner nations and exercise interoperability in the face of trauma on the battlefield combined with the danger of CBRN components,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Ochsner, 140th Medical Group detachment 1 commander, CBRN enhanced response force package, said.

The CONG CERFP was the first in the U.S. to showcase this combined package of CBRN decontamination and medical treatment for these exercises. CERFP is traditionally a domestic operations mission, however, the Colorado team attended this exercise at the request of allied nations to display a framework for an agile medical unit within CBRN decontamination capabilities. This model does not exist with partner nations where medical and decontamination responses are typically managed separately, potentially delaying trauma care at the point of injury.

“Under the guidance of the EUCOM, there is interest in the demonstration of our CBRN capability, even though our CERFP is a domestic response package,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jason Patten, CERFP flight surgeon, 140th MDG, said. “The idea is that we are trained to do battlefield work and can use that skill while also demonstrating a capacity that not all nations have - a combined CBRN decontamination and medical response package.”

The Republic of Slovenia, augmented the CONG as their state partner. The Slovenian Armed Forces medical team seamlessly integrated with the CONG CERFP team, proving interoperability, and highlighting the success of Colorado’s State Partnership Program.

“At first we had some issues because the Slovenian system of managing patients and the U.S. system, they are different,” said Slovenian Senior Military Spc. Class 13 Petra Strnad Kos, a medical doctor. “We adapted to the CONG’s system, and they adapted to our system. I now think that working together is even better than working alone. We do well together.”

Patten said that the CONG integrated with the Slovenians to create a medical team. For example, a Slovenian doctor worked alongside a CONG nurse and vice versa.

Members of the Colorado Army National Guard served in the decontamination element of the CERFP. In this setting, they also worked closely with Slovenian counterparts to provide emergent medical interventions throughout the decontamination line.

“This is something that we do not do domestically but has fundamentally changed our approach to our domestic mission and is something we plan to incorporate moving forward,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jackson, DECON liaison, 8th CERFP, COARNG. “We have learned a lot from this experience.”

“We completed a major exercise with our SPP Slovenian counterparts,” Ochsner said. “I am super proud of what we were able to accomplish in this exercise. This is a huge win for the Army, the Air, and the Slovenians.”

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