Members of the Vermont National Guard are on their way to Africa. They’re going as part of the Department of Defense’s State Partnership Program, which the National Guard administers for the Pentagon.
The 15 Vermont National Guard members heading to the West African country of Senegal all have medical experience. Some of them are doctors, some are nurses and still others are combat medics.
They’re going to spend two weeks in Kolda, Senegal, which is in a remote area near the country’s southern border.
“And they’ll work alongside Senegalese doctors at a medical facility there, and work on patients,” Vermont National Guard Maj. John Hearn said.
More than 80 other countries participate in the State Partnership Program, working with National Guard units from all 50 states. Vermont has been linked with Senegal since 2008 and with North Macedonia since 1994.
Maj. Hearn, the director of the program for the Green Mountain State, says they deploy personnel to one partner country or the other just about every month.
“The last time we did a medical readiness exercise was back in April, where we had 15 soldiers — both airmen and soldiers — that went to Senegal, to the Tambacounda region, for 15 days and treated over 540 patients,” he said.
Besides caring for hundreds of civilians, efforts like these help the Guard make sure that it’ll be able to provide medical treatment on the battlefield…if it’s ever needed.
“It is relationship-building,” Maj. Hearn said. “We really have an opportunity to work alongside our partners and learn just as much from them as they learn from us, so it is a true partnership that our soldiers get a lot of value out of.”
The Guard members left Vermont at about 7:30 Friday morning. They should reach Senegal’s capital, Dakar, on Saturday afternoon, but they won’t arrive at their final destination until Sunday night at the earliest.