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By Sgt. 1st Class Jason Alvarez
Vermont National Guard Public Affairs
The mission of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program is, “to support the security cooperation objectives of the United States.” The achievement of that goal brings many follow-on effects that benefit both partners in the SPP relationship.
In September 2021, U.S. Army Maj. Kimberly Holbrook, a physician assistant and the commander of Charlie Company, 186th Brigade Support Battalion, Vermont Army National Guard, and her executive officer U.S Army Capt. Michael Kelley, traveled to North Macedonia to observe and offer guidance to a recently formed medical company in the North Macedonia Army with a similar mission to theirs.
Holbrook recalls that on the trip, “We discussed with leadership at North Macedonia brigade-level, and the medical company-level the possibility of attaching a small medical team with us for annual training. It would give the Soldiers from North Macedonia the opportunity to get realistic medical training, expose them to the Military Decision-Making Process, and movement of wounded across the battlefield.”
That opportunity materialized at the Sustainment Training Center at Camp Dodge in Iowa from July 29-Aug. 13. The State Department, State Partnership Program, and the North Macedonia brigade signed off on the medical team joining Charlie Company at their annual training.
“The North Macedonia Army Soldiers fully integrated into Charlie Company, 186th BSB, with each Soldier assigned a role comparable to their position in the North Macedonian Army,” explained Holbrook. “This allowed full access to realistic medical training, MDMP, and evacuation of wounded. With the exception of night driver training under night vision goggles, the MKD Soldiers did everything hand in hand with our team, to include hot/cold loads with the UH-60 Blackhawks.”
The intensive training the Soldiers received included three days of tissue training. North Macedonia Army company commander Brane, Holbrook, and Kelley instructed medics on suturing and stapling, using pig feet, and teaching airway management using pig lungs and trachea.
“This allowed the North Macedonia Army Soldiers and medics to use real tissue to perform advanced lifesaving interventions,” Holbrook added.
The complete training included medical logistics, behavioral health, medical treatment, ground evacuation, laboratory services, radiological procedures, preventative medicine, and pharmaceutical education.
The North Macedonia Army company commander praised the facilities and staff at Camp Dodge. They said the staff provided excellent hands-on training and resources at the event.
Holbrook discussed future training with North Macedonia Army leadership at the training, “If we attempted two missions a year that would be helpful. It would help to cross-level knowledge and allow for a more robust relationship, especially as North Macedonia nears their medical company evaluation with NATO in 2026.”
Vermont and North Macedonia began their state partnership on July 14, 1993. The relationship has included collaborative events in Europe and the United States, including a shared deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. The relationship between the two partners has expanded to include civic and economic opportunities for cooperation, including state government.