The response of the United States to the Ebola crisis in West Africa highlighted the intricate linkage between human health and national security. Operation Unified Assistance, as it came to be called, demonstrated the power of Global Health Engagement, or GHE, to foster partnerships, address health threats and enhance regional stability.
Today, GHE activities are taking place across every geographic combatant command and include disaster response, humanitarian assistance, military-to-military exchanges of expertise and military-to-civilian collaboration.
Army Medicine contributes to this effort by leveraging its expeditionary healthcare capability as a means to enhance the readiness of Department of Defense medical forces, build partner nation capacity and improve interoperability. To realize the full potential of GHE, it is imperative that the Army develops competent military medical professionals.
The Department of Veterinary Science at the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Health Readiness Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston is driving change by preparing Veterinary Corps officers, or VCOs, to plan and execute GHE activities in support of theater security cooperation.
As a first step, the Department of Veterinary Science added “Global Health Engagement” to its 64A Basic Officer Leader Course, or BOLC, Competency List as well as its 640A Food Safety Warrant Officer critical task list.
This established a requirement for competence and paved the way for the development of GHE lesson plans which are now integrated into four different programs of instruction spanning the VCO training and education lifecycle.
For example, the BOLC “veterinary track” includes a block of instruction on basic GHE concepts and definitions. This foundational class is designed to create awareness, generate excitement and encourage self-study.
Later in their careers, VCOs return for functional courses which expose them to more advanced topics such as “why” GHE matters at the strategic level (i.e., national interests) as well as “how” to effectively conduct GHE at the operational and tactical levels, such as with subject matter expert exchanges.
The Department of Veterinary Science is also developing exportable standardized training packages, or STPs, to assist AMEDD officers tasked with executing GHE missions with allied/partner medical forces.
This effort was initiated by Regional Health Command-Pacific due to concerns with the delivery of non-standardized training. Without centralized oversight, GHE training on any particular subject varied over time and from one country to the next.
The process placed an excessive burden on U.S. trainers who were often obligated to create the training material from scratch. The result was a disjointed and inconsistent GHE deliverable. To address this problem, veterinary science personnel envisioned, designed and developed a first of its kind standardized training package based on the veterinary service’s food protection capability.
To date, three separate geographic combatant commands have leveraged the food protection STP to supply U.S. trainers with standardized yet tailorable academic content aligned with a five year engagement strategy. In all cases, the STPs demonstrated their ability to deliver actionable and adaptable content to AMEDD officers thereby improving GHE execution.
Going forward, these products can serve as a field-tested template for future STP development by other dental, behavioral health, radiology, physical therapy, nutrition and medical functional areas.
Global Health Engagement is often called a strategic enabler; in effect, it allows Army Medicine to serve on the frontlines of health diplomacy in support of the DOD’s security cooperation strategy. To improve execution, the Department of Veterinary Science is delivering training that cultivates competent health practitioners fully capable of supporting DOD policy.
By incorporating GHE training into the institutional domain, the AMEDDC&S HRCoE fulfills its vision to be the foundation on which Army Medicine is built, sustained and transformed.