Balkan, Turkish militaries expand medical co-operation
Psychological support to soldiers and their families is just as important as field medicine, military experts said.
By Menekse Tokyay for Southeast European Times in Istanbul, 06/06/13
Turkeyand the Balkan states are expanding military co-operation in a number of fields, most recently through the 18th Balkan Military Medical Committee (BMMC) meeting in Istanbul.
BMMC is a platform founded in 1995 by Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey, where military experts of various specialties in medicine exchange knowledge and experience to improve field medicine practices in the participating militaries.
BMMC includes Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Serbia and Turkey under a memorandum of understanding. Macedonia, Montenegro, Belgium and the United States participate as observers.
The main topic of this year’s meeting was the best ways to provide healthcare services and psychological support before, during and after military operations.
“Health services are always essential for military during peace and war times. BMMC Congresses can improve health quality among soldiers of armed forces and indirectly people of member nations as well due to collaboration and information exchange between the military health personnel of Balkan nations,” Lieutenant General Hasan Kucukakyuz from Turkey said in his welcome address at the late May conference.
Lieutenant Colonel Bogdan Marinescu, president of the Romanian National Board for BMMC, toldSETimes that this year the parties agreed to deepen expertise sharing on psychological support for military staff before, during and after the military operations.
“We must work to bring a standard to the medical health of military officers before, during and after the operations they attend. The psychological side of such efforts is of utmost importance because we should be well-prepared to re-integrate those soldiers into the society with full personal integrity,” Marinescu said.
Practical strategies for dealing with stress acquired during operations and the provision of psychological tools to enhance personal integrity are required for the success of military operations, he added.
The Balkan countries, some of whose military staff have deployed in crisis regions like Afghanistan and Iraq, have a key role in sustaining the mental health and the morale of military service members under their command. This includes support for military families who remain in their homeland in order to preserve personal and family integrity during deployment.
Romaniaand Bulgaria also have protocols with the Turkish Army to help during disasters. In devastating earthquake that struck Turkey’s eastern city of Van in 2011, Bulgarian soldiers came to the help of their Turkish colleagues to conduct humanitarian operations.
Following the general conclusions drawn by the BMMC meeting, experts from the participating countries will meet throughout the year under specific working groups. Military cadets also participate in the committee meeting, giving academic presentations to the military medical committee and establishing good relations with their peers.
“We also envisage initiating an exchange programme between young military students every year to be able to spend two weeks in another Balkan country in order to deepen knowledge and establish networks. The benefits of this committee should extend well beyond and cover people-to-people contacts too from early ages,” Marinescu said.
Under the auspices of BMMC, Balkan countries should co-operate further to share medical knowledge in specific fields, like vaccination against pandemic diseases, to give each other some guidance in the ever-changing medical field, he added.
“For instance, in the fields like bio-defense, plastic surgery, burns, tissue engineering, stem cells and emerging infectious diseases, countries can co-operate further and transfer their knowledge to each other in order to increase the readiness of the countries in other related situations,” Marinescu said.
During this year’s meeting, infectious diseases had a central part in the sessions. The participants underlined the importance of sharing scientific and practical knowledge concerning infectious diseases in the military.
Colonel Professor Miroslav Pavlovic, from Serbia, told SETimes that BMMC is an excellent opportunity for the parties to co-operate operationally and exchange scientific information.
Serbia, the only non-NATO member, has been participating in these committee meetings for two years, after a two year-long stint as an observer.
Pavlovic recommended that Balkan countries deepen and share their expertise in niche areas like aviation medicine.
“Not all countries have this kind of expertise, so some countries should lead and produce a co-operative environment in the Balkan geography,” Pavlovic said.