United States and British Royal Naval forces partnered for exercise Azraq Serpent 18 (AS18) Jan. 14-19 on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship Cardigan Bay.
The exercise was a bilateral exercise with the aim of developing interoperability between the two partners across the medical domain in the U.S. 5th fleet area of operations. The exercise was intended to demonstrate U.S. military surgical capabilities aboard a RFA asset using organic logistic support.
Among the participants were United Kingdom members from Cardigan Bay, Deployed Health Care Team, 42 Commando Royal Marines, and service members from the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force.
The two nations performed drills that included simulated casualties, casualty handling training, tactical combat casualty care and airway management (which included intubation training).
“From a medical and clinical basis we’ve had quite a lot of experience in the past working with U.S. medical teams in Afghanistan, but we haven’t really had that much experience in a maritime environment,” said Jon Matthews, clinical director of ‘Role 2 Afloat. “I think we all work very similarly from a medical point of view, but it’s establishing processes and the infrastructure of how we integrate.”
Part of integrating the infrastructure came in the form of the voltage differences between the two countries. Will the United Kingdom’s 220 volt plugs work with the United States 110 volt medical equipment?
“The American team comes as a package with their own equipment, and if they were to deploy onboard here, they would bring their own equipment,” said Matthews. “It allows the Americans an opportunity to see that we’ve got an in-built operating table, for instance, in-operating lights and critical care beds, so they know what’s actually on this ship and what they can expect to be able to use when they come onboard.”
Overall, the nations were able to come together making Azraq Serpent 2018 a success.
“The feedback I’m getting from the captain of the vessel is he’s really, really happy,” said Lt. Cmdr. David Morley, the lead planner for Azraq Serpent 18. “Both our surgical teams, U.S. and U.K., they’ve really seen a benefit.”
U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations encompasses about 2.5 million square miles of water area and includes the Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Red Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean. The expanse comprises 20 countries and includes three critical choke points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen.