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Bulgarian Armed Forces Demonstrate Combat Medical Advancements

Image of Two medics tend to a dummy in a simulated emergency. Bulgarian soldiers demonstrate skills learned through combat lifesaving training, a collaboration between Bulgarian and U.S. armed forces. (Photo: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. April R. Benson)

Bulgarian Armed Forces showed off their combat lifesaving training to U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria Herro Mustafa and key facilitators from the U.S. Army Tennessee National Guard and U.S. Air Forces Europe at the Bulgarian Military Medical Simulation Center, on Aug. 10. The event highlighted the collaborative planning between Bulgarian and U.S. armed forces in combat medicine and emphasized how medical interoperability saves lives on the battlefield.

The Medical Simulation Center opened in the fall of 2021, and enables Bulgarian soldiers to train critical combat medicine skills. The combat lifesaver (CLS) course runs monthly and trains 20 medical students from point of injury to battalion aid station care (NATO Role 1). In the near future, the center is scheduled to launch combat paramedic courses for more advanced combat medical training.

“We have wonderful military hospitals with excellently trained staff, and the military medical academy copes with the biggest challenges in medicine,” said Bulgarian Maj. Gen. Ventsislav Mutafchiyski, chief doctor of the Bulgarian Armed Forces. “But the wounded soldiers must reach these hospitals alive. This is exactly the philosophy behind creating this center—to be prepared for the first 10 minutes.”

U.S. Army Col. Keith Evans, commander of the Tennessee Readiness Detachment, helped facilitate the construction of the simulation center and has worked with Bulgarian military medical leadership to develop the CLS curriculum since 2018.

“We initially were the ones coming over to teach Bulgarian soldiers the CLS course prior to deployment,” Evans said. “Through discussions, we decided to develop the CLS curriculum so they could start teaching it themselves. We started with the combat lifesaver course and at the same time started developing the simulation center. The center opened in September of 2021, where they can actually do the physical training and keep everyone consistent, whether it be Army, Air Force, or Navy. All of their paramedics will be trained to the same standard.”

Strobe lights, smoke, and crackling simulated gunfire breathed life into the CLS demonstration at the simulation center. The Bulgarian medical team treated a simulated casualty at point of injury and transferred it to the aid station. Following the demonstration, the U.S. ambassador thanked participants and shared her feedback.

“This demonstration was very impressive,” Mustafa stated. “It is one of the best things we have seen in our partnership in a long time.”

The State Partnership Program (SPP) enables U.S. Army National Guard soldiers to conduct military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals and deepen medical alliances in the Balkan region. In the future, U.S. Air Force Europe will jointly integrate with U.S. Army SPP counterparts to develop flight paramedic programs.

“It’s been a great partnership and it’s great to have watched this evolve from essentially an idea with some scribbled notes on paper, all the way to what has now come to fruition,” Evans said. “This is something great we can develop for their country and strengthen our interoperability. Together, we can make Bulgaria a stronger NATO ally and support the NATO mission.”

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