The Military Health Services of SADC conducted Exercise Pabalelo from 14th to 29th November 2018 in Maun, Republic of Botswana. The aim of the Exercise was to test the SADC Standby Force's Medical Battalion capability to provide combat medical support during peace support operations and humanitarian assistance missions. This was the first ever Exercise of its nature for the SADC Military Health Services (MHS) conducted under the theme "Fortified and comprehensive health: A precursor to military success and victory in combat".
In addition, Exercise Pabalelo also aimed at validating the draft SADC MHS Doctrine and to practice Command, Control, Communications and Coordinating structures during the provision of medical support. Further, the Exercise intended to ensure interoperability amongst the SADC Member States' Military Health Services, while strengthening the operational readiness of the SADC Standby Force. In order to attain this, Ex Pabalelo was able to set up Level I medical support cstations in Kareng, Tsau, Phatlhane and Bodibeng, Level II medical support stations in Sehithwa and a Level III medical support station at Letsholathebe II Hospital in Maun town, which served as the final referral level.
The closing of Exercise Pabalelo was graced by Major General Gotsileene Morake, Deputy Commander of the Botswana Defence Force who, while appreciating the successful conduct of the Exercise also noted that the array of activities geared towards mobilizing and jointly planning, strategizing and training the health personnel of the magnitude displayed, demonstrated the high regard SADC Member States accord to Military Health Services interoperability in the region, which he said was praiseworthy and represents the timely capability for SADC militaries in combat medical support, in particular during SADC Standby Force peace support operations and humanitarian assistance missions. The Deputy Commander also noted that the contemporary and future security environments are significantly characterised by epidemics and challenges to health care services in conflict zones, which calls for the SADC Standby Force to exercise in such capabilities.
In a similar manner, the Exercise Director, Colonel Mothusi Chelenyane also informed that, as part of its mandate, the Military Health Services Exercise was able to integrate Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) at the Level III medical support, where they were able to conduct of specialist surgical operations at Letsholathebe II Memorial Hospital by health professionals from all participating SADC countries. A total of 160 different types of medical procedures were thus performed on the local civilian population to alleviate surgical backlogs, particularly in the areas of cataracts, Caesarean section, Hysterectomy, Open reduction and Internal fixation. Other outreach programmes included Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS) for malaria and Canine vaccinations for rabies.
The conduct of Exercise Pabalelo is also timely especially as the SADC goes into the African Standby Force Roster duties from January 2019, whereby SADC will be expected to provide Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) towards Peace Support efforts in the entire African Continent, as part of the African Union's conflict resolution mechanisms. In addition, as part of Force Preparation, together with the recently concluded SADC Command Post Exercise (CPX), code-named Umodzi, held in the Republic of Malawi in October 2018, the SADC Special Forces Exercise, codenamed Matumbawe, which was held in the United Republic of Tanzania in August 2017, and the SADC Military Aviation Exercise, codenamed Blue Kunene held in the Republic of Namibia in September 2017, Exercise Pabalelo served to enhance the overall operational readiness of the SADC Standby Force.
The Exercise was attended by the Republic of Botswana as the Host Country, the Kingdom of Lesotho, and the Republics of Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.