FOZ DO IGUAZU, BRAZIL – Fifteen New York Army National Guard medics and physician assistants traveled to Brazil to participate in South America’s largest military humanitarian response exercise Aug. 12-18.
The Soldiers, from the 466th Medical Company, Area Support, joined 100 other foreign military personnel from 13 countries and 1,700 Brazilians for Operation Parana III in Parana State.
The New York National Guard and Brazil have been partners in the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program since 2018.
“We really enjoyed the opportunity to integrate into the Brazilian medical team and see how other countries really treat and care for their soldiers,” said New York National Guard Maj. Shelly Respecki, 466th commander. “The entire staff really took us all in and were open to a collaboration of sharing best practices and techniques.”
She said the exercise enabled members of the unit to size up their strengths and areas for improvement.
The scenario — the U.S. Army’s first participation in the exercise since its inception in 2017 — simulated a catastrophic flood in the city of Santa Helena.
The 466th Soldiers worked alongside the Brazilian Army medical personnel to open a Role II field hospital, which provide advanced trauma management, emergency treatment and surgical care.
New York National Guard 1st Lt. Justin Perez, an intensive care unit registered nurse in civilian life, said he learned a lot working in the field hospital.
“It was an incredible experience just to be able to see how the Brazilians in a medical setting work and how much we were able to learn from them and vice versa,” Perez said. “We were each teaching each other classes and even though we had that language barrier, we were eventually able to build up the chemistry a lot quicker than expected to be able to work cohesively together.”
U.S. and Brazilian army medical personnel also collaborated outside the field hospital, responding to mass casualties, medical evacuations, first aid and trauma care.
The 466th deployed to Kuwait in 2021 and 2022, so some Soldiers brought that experience.
The Americans also assisted in helicopter medical evacuation missions — a great experience, according to Sgt. Brion Pasquale, a combat medic and civilian emergency medical technician.
Also participating in the exercise were two public affairs Soldiers and a staff planner from the New York Army National Guard’s 53rd Troop Command.
Maj. Robert Freed, who has a master’s degree in emergency management, was asked to serve as a planner in the exercise’s joint operations center. He managed a staff of five Brazilian officers and said the exercise “demonstrated the expeditionary capacity of National Guard units to successfully augment with foreign militaries during humanitarian emergencies abroad.”
Brazilian Army 2nd Lt. Jemy Chen, a doctor, said working with the Americans and sharing techniques and equipment “was a positive experience that you can’t get in our everyday training.”
Pasquale worked with Chen and said he was able to apply some of the techniques he’s learned in his civilian job during the exercise.
“We had some issues with the stretcher going into the ambulance but were able to mix different techniques to find a way that we all felt comfortable with,” Pasquale said. “It was also fun to ride in an ambulance in a foreign country, an experience that I’ll never forget.”
Brazilian Army Maj. Luis Gustavo said the exercise, which included troops from Mexico, Spain, Colombia and other countries, was the best he had participated in.
“My troops do not have the international experience, and most have never left Brazil,“ Gustavo said.