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Airborne medics care for Kenyan villagers

Airborne medics have joined forces with Kenyan military and civilian medics, taking their skills on the road to treat people in remote villages.

From monitoring nutrition problems to supporting pregnant women with health checks, 19 Squadron of 16 Medical Regiment has headed out into the dusty plains of Laikipia County to provide primary healthcare to isolated communities.

Under the direction of Kenyan authorities, the troops have been working alongside medics from the Kenyan Defence Force, the Kenyan Red Cross, and Beyond Zero, a government-funded health outreach organisation which promotes maternal and infant health.

The military and civilian medics drove over 700 miles through the savannah to run outreach clinics in 11 towns and villages, treating over 7,500 patients.

For the Colchester-based soldiers, the expeditionary work gives them experience of working with partners to treat a wider range of conditions among a diverse patient group, as well as testing their planning and logistical skills. For the Kenyan people, the work takes healthcare out to communities that do not have regular facilities as a return benefit for allowing British troops to train in the country.

Combat Medical Technician Lance Corporal Bernard Bryce said: “The healthcare interventions we have been able to provide, which are often taken for granted in the UK, have been life changing for many of the people we have seen. In resource limited communities, the burden from easily preventable and curable diseases is massive.”

“The healthcare interventions we have been able to provide, which are often taken for granted in the UK, have been life changing for many of the people we have seen." Lance Corporal Bernard Bryce
16 Medical Regiment

The six-week-long Exercise Haraka Serpent has also seen the medics receive specialist training in wilderness medicine and share their skills treating battlefield casualties with Kenyan Defence Force clinicians.

Corporal Sally Sinclair, a nurse, described the exercise as “an invaluable experience”. “This was my first-time treating patients in a more austere environment outside of an NHS setting, with minimal kit and different protocols,” she said.

“I’ve learnt a lot about how the British and Kenyan militaries approach pre-hospital treatment and, when we did the outreach clinics, a great deal about triaging and subsequently delivering essential primary care.”

Major Iain MacArthur, Officer Commanding 19 Squadron, said: “Everybody on the exercise has really pitched in to deliver success, from our doctors, nurses and medics to our vehicle mechanics and HR specialists.

“It’s been great to see the way our team have been able to gel with our Kenyan partners, both civilian and military. I know that this experience of delivering healthcare in remote settings to such a diverse range of patients will be of enormous benefit to all our soldiers.

“Exercise Haraka Serpent is, in my opinion, one of the best medical exercises for any medic to deploy on, and everyone will leave the exercise as better soldiers and with a much-enhanced worldview.” Major Iain MacArthur
16 Medical Regiment

“Exercise Haraka Serpent is, in my opinion, one of the best medical exercises for any medic to deploy on, and everyone will leave the exercise as better soldiers and with a much-enhanced worldview.”

16 Medical Regiment’s core role is to provide medical support to 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, the British Army’s global response force, and it is specially trained and equipped to deploy the full spectrum of clinical care – from pre-hospital emergency care to life-saving surgery – at short notice by parachute, helicopter, or air landing.

Under an agreement with the Kenyan Government, up to six infantry battlegroups per year carry out eight-week exercises in Kenya, with the stifling heat and arduous terrain providing a stern test for units preparing to deploy on operations or assume high-readiness tasks. British Army Training Unit Kenya is a permanent training support unit based in Kenya and hosts Royal Engineer exercises to carry out civil engineering projects and medical deployments to support the civilian community.

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